Artist Charlie Hewitt will install a lit sculpture called “French beauty” in Auburn’s Anniversary Park this fall.

AUBURN — Charlie Hewitt often returns to the place he grew up, along the banks of the Little Androscoggin River, and leaves a rose in memory of his mother.

This fall, there will be a rose permanently on display there.

Hewitt, a well-known artist who was born in Lewiston, spent his childhood living in tenement housing on Second Street in Auburn. His newest installation, called “French beauty,” is a nod to the region’s French heritage.

He also admits it’s a little sentimental.

The installation, which he calls “a memorial to the women that raised us” there, will be put in the ground not far from where the housing once stood.

“It’s a place that’s quite important to me,” he said. “We lived in rows of working class people. The river was our playground.”

The piece by Hewitt, who also created Lewiston’s “Hopeful” sign, is the latest in a string of public art projects planned for the Twin Cities.

According to city officials, Hewitt approached the city in hopes of donating a piece to Auburn’s newly-completed Anniversary Park, formerly Little Androscoggin Park. It will be one of two installations slated for the revamped park.

In early 2019, the Maine Arts Commission awarded a $75,000 grant to the chamber and L/A Arts to implement a “cultural plan” for Lewiston-Auburn.

Two installations are forthcoming from that work, including “Ledgers” in Lewiston by artist Andy Rosen and “Bud Form” by artist Hugh Lassen in Auburn. Another sculpture, titled “The Fish” by Thomas Berger, is slated for Anniversary Park in just a few weeks.

Hewitt’s installation will go in the northwest corner of the park, close to Rolly’s Diner, 2nd Street and the river.

Similar to the “Hopeful” sign on Bates Mill No. 5 in Lewiston, the “French beauty” installation will feature LED lights, making the work stand out at night.

Hewitt works with Lewiston-based Neokraft Signs to create the pieces. He said he likes working with light because “Maine is a dark state.”

“I like to have this beacon shining,” he said. “It’s kind of retro, but in a meaningful way.”

When asked how the installation differs from the Lewiston piece, he said it’s “much more intimate,” and isn’t “high art.”

He said unlike another Lewiston piece of his, “the rattle,” which is now in the Bates Mill complex, his work with signs can speak to everyone.

“I want that French culture to be memorialized,” he said, and “signify what made and renewed these towns. There’s a lot of sentiment tied to memory. I care a lot about Lewiston-Auburn.”

He said he felt it was important to have the sign in French, in honor of his mother, Rose St. Hilaire, and Lewiston-Auburn’s history.

During a discussion this week, the Auburn City Council was largely supportive of the plan.

Beckie Conrad, who serves on the L/A Arts public art workgroup, told councilors that it was apparent Hewitt has a personal connection to the installation, but said it serves as a reminder for why artists establish connections with their community.

“I think we should start to think carefully about why artists want to be here,” she said. “It’s going to be another important piece to have in the community.”

Mayor Jason Levesque said he believes it will “be a wonderful, beautiful piece that will bring people from all over and be something enjoyable for the residents.”

Levesque added that it’s significant that in just a short amount of time, there’s been a real surge in “world-class art coming to Auburn.”


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