LEWISTON — Officials said they will support a temporary art installation planned for Bates Mill No. 5, when the City Council takes a formal vote next week.

The installation, a 30-foot aluminum outline of the word “Hopeful” that would be lit with LED lights, is a project by artist Charlie Hewitt, and would be similar to one already in Portland.

With council approval, it would be installed Dec. 23.

The project is a collaboration between Hewitt, a Lewiston native who also designed the Lewiston rattle sculpture, mill developer Tom Platz and fabricator Neokraft Signs.

During a Tuesday council workshop, officials largely supported the project, stating Lewiston needs more public art.

“I’m super excited about this,” said Mayor Kristen Cloutier. “Anything we can do to incorporate public art in this community, it’s an unspoken gem.”

Cloutier reminded residents that Hewitt and Platz are funding the project, meaning they are not requesting public funds for the installation.

Platz said the installation is designed to be temporary, in place until redevelopment work begins on the building.

“This is just the beginning of what can happen in downtown Lewiston,” Platz said, referring to plans for a larger art trail.

Hewitt said he’s hoping, like all public art, the piece starts conversations.

“The nature of art is we’re supposed to talk about it. You can argue about it for three years, then it’s gone and you can talk about something else,” he said.

Other councilors were also on board.

“I think it will generate a lot of conversation,” said Councilor Joline Landry Beam. “I like the word hopeful, it’s whimsical.”

Councilor Michel Lajoie said he wasn’t immediately struck by the design but said he likes the project, adding, “people will drive by there, and wish for something good to happen with that building.”

“It’s a little different than what I would put there, but thats OK, that’s what it’s supposed to do,” Councilor Zack Pettengill said. “It will generate a lot of comments.”

Councilor Michael Marcotte, however, said he does not agree the installation should be considered art. He argued it seemed more like an advertisement for the future of the building.

“I don’t see it as art,” he said. “I have to look at the word hopeful and say what does that mean, another 30 years of waiting for something to happen at Mill 5? I’m not too hopeful that we’re going to see taxpaying enterprises at that location.”

He said more fitting words would be “determined” or “enterprising.” Marcotte also said the piece is not unique because Portland already has a version.

Councilor Jim Lysen said he cannot wait for New Year’s Eve, when the installation is expected to be lit.

Hewitt said his inspiration for the project was the large lighted signs of the 1950s, when the country “celebrated” its businesses and restaurants, a time when communities felt “great about ourselves.”

Smoking at CMMC

The City Council also voted 6-1 on Tuesday in favor of a smoking ban for the area surrounding Central Maine Medical Center.

Marcotte argued against the ban due to its inclusion of a large section of Main Street, which he said would impact people passing the hospital and hospital employees.

Heather Everly Berube, a resident, called the ban “classist,” and argued it would impact people dealing with trauma at the hospital who now “can’t go outside and have a cigarette.”


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