Two years after its inception, a project to paint oil tanks in South Portland finally has a design, if not a start date.

Venezuelan artist Jaime Gili’s design of pastel-colored triangular forms was chosen by the Maine Center for Creativity to don eight tanks and eight tank tops owned by Sprague Energy Corp., the group announced Wednesday at Mercy Hospital, which looks out on the oil tanks.

Gili, called “one of the hottest global artists” by Bates College Museum of Art director Mark Bessire, was chosen from 560 entries from 73 countries submitted for the “Art All Around” project.

Gili said it is the biggest project he has taken on. “I would like to see paintings taking over cities,” he said.

Jean Maginnis, founder and executive director of the Maine Center for Creativity, said Gili’s paintings will take over South Portland. The 16 tanks are visible from Interstate 95, from airplanes landing at the Portland Jetport and from boats on the Fore River.

It has not been determined just when Gili will begin painting. The center is still raising money for the endeavor – as of Wednesday, it had about $200,000 of its $1.2-million goal.

The first tank to be painted will be the smallest and most southerly tank passed by motorists on the Veterans Bridge.

Since its inception, the project has drawn barbs from critics against the idea of such a public display. But Maginnis, along with city and state officials, said the project will bolster Maine’s image as a leader in public art.

The Maine Center for Creativity, a nonprofit organization, spearheaded the project and will lead the fundraiser for the remaining $1.2 million that will pay for the project over the next three years, Maginnis said.

Gili received a $20,000 prize in addition to the opportunity to put his work on the sides of the oil tanks, a combined canvas of 261,000 square feet. (He had already received $7,500 for being a semifinalist.)

The space represents the largest for public art ever developed at a Maine industrial site, according to the center.

“It is the beginning of a long relationship,” Gili said with a smile.

Bessire said Gili’s “bold, colorful gestures” and triangular forms will bring an energy to the tank farm and be captivating in any light and every season.

“His slashes and stripes have an energy,” Bessire said. “One of the reasons I thought this piece would be strong is because over time, it will always look fresh. When you look at the colors and patterns, no matter what time of day or light, it always looks a little different.

“If it was a static image, in 10 or 15 years, it would not be as lively. It’s always changing. And because it’s round, it always looks like it’s moving … this has more possibilities.”

Maine Office of Tourism Director Pat Eltman, speaking on behalf of Gov. John Baldacci, congratulated Gili on his role in representing the “power of private and public partnerships” in Maine.

Eltman said that the creative economy in Maine brings in an estimated $6.6 billion annually through cultural tourism and that Gili’s “bold art will be a source of pride for us.” Cultural tourism, according to the Maine Arts Commission, includes all trips related to cultural institutions or festivals that are made by residents and tourists.

The other “Art All Around” semifinalists were Catherine Callahan and Bret LeBleu of South Portland; Holger Friese of Berlin; Nicole Langille of Columbus, Ohio; Bo Nathan Newsome of Durham, N.C.; and Sara Lambert Bloom of South Portland.

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