LEWISTON — If you have not seen it yet, you are probably in the minority.

Just a few days after arriving in Lewiston, internationally recognized muralist Arlin Graff is well underway on his mural on the side of the Centreville parking garage, off Pine Street. He plans to finish the work in time for the Build Maine conference Friday. 

Graff’s work, with large, geometrical designs forming images of wildlife, can be found in cities around the world, and Lewiston is making him feel welcome. 

Within the span of a few minutes Monday, dozens of people walked past the mural, snapping photos or stopping to watch Graff’s process. Someone dropped off coffee, another person dropped off lunch for him.

On Sunday afternoon, so many people dropped off food and beverages for Graff that organizers decided to turn the event into a mini-block party. He was hoping for more of the same Monday and the rest of the week.

Graff is originally from Brazil but is based in the United States. He doesn’t seem to be home much. Graff flew to Maine last week from Taiwan, and flies out Friday for Instanbul. After that, maybe Mexico City, he said Monday. 

He said he changed his schedule to be in Lewiston this week. 

“I prefer painting small towns to big cities actually,” he said, because it reminds him of his hometown.

He said he likes to connect with communities.

“It’s more personal,” he said.

The theme of community also runs through Graff’s subject choice for the Lewiston mural — a zebra.

He said Monday that zebras do everything as a community, and that you rarely see a zebra by itself.

Graff said he focuses on animals, making them larger than life, as a way of highlighting the importance of wildlife. He said the idea especially needs to be relayed in a city setting. When people walk past, he wants them to feel small in front of the huge image of an animal. 

“There’s a lot that’s affecting nature,” he said. “It’s really important for people to see it, and respect it.” 

He also rarely chooses animals that are native to the city or area he’s painting in.

He just completed a cardinal in Taiwan.

Graff uses spray paint to create strips and blocks of colors, which are layered over a “skeleton” that helps guide the process. Once the zebra is complete, the visible skeleton markers will be removed or painted over. 

Graff said his style inspiration came from his father, who was a carpenter. He said as a child, he would play with small blocks of wood, forming various shapes. 

Among those helping him to feel at home in Lewiston is Sheri Hollenbeck from the L-A chapter of the Union of Maine Visual Artists. She stopped by Monday to check out the progress he has made.

“It’s incredible how fast he’s going,” she said. 

He is also being helped in other ways, with lodging at the Hampton Inn and the donation of a lift from Easy Rent-All.

Hollenbeck is also organizing the local component of Build Maine later this week, with a number of activities coinciding with a pop-up beer garden Thursday afternoon. 

Soon after Graff discussed continuing the block party, Hollenbeck created a Facebook event to try to spread the word. 

Build Maine will use $7,000 from its annual conference fundraising to pay Graff. It includes the cost of paint.

The City Council gave its blessing for the project in May, and an ad-hoc committee was formed to work with Graff on the mural’s content, given its location on public property.

Carl Sheline, whose business, Maple Way Dental, faces the garage, was part of the the committee, and he was also taking in the spectacle Monday.

He said he noticed how the zebra is running slightly uphill, which fits the form of Pine Street. 

“I think it’s really exciting,” he said.

Before Graff got started over the weekend, Sheline was among those helping him load up the crates of spray paint to bring to the garage. 

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Muralist Arlin Graff takes a short pause Monday morning from painting his mural on the side of the Centreville parking garage off Pine Street in Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Muralist Arlin Graff consults a small-scale representation of his his mural Monday morning on the side of the Centreville parking garage off Pine Street in Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Muralist Arlin Graff at work Monday morning on his his mural of a colorful zebra on the side of the Centreville parking garage off Pine Street in Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


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