Augusta art students prepare to paint the town

AUGUSTA — Downtown Augusta has plenty of historic architecture, but when it comes to public art, it is a relatively blank canvas.

Multiple groups of people, each led by at least one artist, plan to change that this summer by painting murals on some of the most highly visible, if now pretty plain-looking, building walls in the downtown.

What the murals will feature for artwork is still evolving. Organizers say they are intentionally avoiding having a common theme running through them, favoring variety that they hope will bring vibrancy and visitors to the downtown, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year.

“Study after study has shown arts and culture are a great vehicle for economic development,” said Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance. “If you improve the way your downtown looks, it improves the way people see it. And we need a little bit of vibrancy downtown.”

In 2013, a visiting team of downtown experts was brought to Augusta through the Main Street Maine program. It spent three days in the city’s downtown, seeing what was there and what wasn’t, and made recommendations for how to help spur economic and community development.

One of the things lacking, team members said at the end of their visit, was public art. Team member Malcolm Collins, a preservation architect and former director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, said he had a “glaring realization, for me, there really is no public art in downtown Augusta. Which for a capital city is not good.” He suggested the University of Maine at Augusta would be a good partner to help bring some art downtown.

Now, UMA students and artists, who are based in a downtown building, are heavily involved in the new mural project.

Peter Precourt, an artist and professor of art at UMA who also oversees the small art gallery Pop-up 265 at 265 Water St. in Augusta, is combining his interest in installing art where it will be…

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