AUBURN — Local artists and city officials are hoping a newly designed art wall along Main Street, connecting Auburn's downtown and New Auburn, will add a touch of class and beauty.
"I don't think there's really anything like it," Auburn Community Development Director Reine Mynahan said. "It's going to be very interesting to see if this idea gets picked up somewhere else."
Crews should begin installing aluminum frames and large aluminum panels along the wall Wednesday, between Newbury Street and Laurel Avenue.
Other crews will go along right behind them, covering the panels with black plastic to hide the art.
A special unveiling is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Main Street and Laurel Avenue, followed by a reception and celebration at Festival Plaza.
When it's done, the wall will feature huge samples of work from eight Maine artists. Original pieces range from graphic designs to oil paintings, pastels, watercolors and photographs.
Each piece has been transferred to a vinyl-coated aluminum panel four feet tall. In all, the artwork will cover the 770-foot-long wall with nine 4-by-24-foot panels and five 4-foot square panels.
The pieces all contain a nature theme, some depicting forests or turtles or hummingbirds. They were selected by a team of city officials and volunteers from L/A Arts.
In all, 38 artists submitted pieces.
"We needed to find a group of artists that fit together," Robyn Holman, curator at the Atrium Art Gallery at LA College, said. "The quality of the light changes throughout the year there. So there will be certain pieces you notice more, if you walk or drive there, at different times of the year. There is a lot of variety there for people to see."
Crews removed an old mural last summer that had been drawn by school students in 2001. Area schoolchildren had worked with a local artist to design scenes for individual sections of the wall.
"But almost from the start, it looked bad," Mynahan said. "It was a couple of years old and the walls were already cracking and peeling."
This latest project is designed to last. The city has a five-year warranty on the panels. Individual pieces can be remade if they are damaged. The work is the final part of overall street-scape improvements for Main Street.
It's an important step to improving the downtown, Odelle Bowman, executive director of L/A Arts, said.
"It makes a difference whether people will want to move here or not," Bowman said. "Both the cities of Lewiston and Auburn are all about the creative economy, about making both more desirable to visit."
The entire project, from the paving and granite curbing to the art wall, was paid for with Community Development Block grants and stimulus money. The entire Main Street improvement project cost $705,000, according to Mynahan. The art wall work accounted for $36,000 of that.