In 1868, five years after “Lewistown” became the official city of Lewiston, residents dedicated a bronze statue of a Union soldier, honoring the lives lost during the Civil War. The statue was created by prolific and well-known sculptor Franklin Simmons, a Sabattus native and Bates College alumnus.

It is one of the earliest surviving works of public art in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Since then and in particular over the past decade, the Twin Cities’ collective push to bring more art to the cities’ streets has helped create dozens more works of public art.

Among them, a retro, aluminum sign with bright neon lights that challenges Main Street passers-by to be “hopeful.” Thomas Berger’s piece “The Fish” swimming in Auburn’s Anniversary Park. And shoes tiptoeing down granite steps as water erupts from their soles at Auburn’s Festival Plaza.

“Art is empowering in a lot of ways,” says Jim Parakilas, a retired Bates professor and chair of L-A Arts.

L-A Arts was founded in 1973 by trustees from the Lewiston and Auburn public libraries and has served as the local arts agency ever since. In addition to promoting arts and culture through events such as the summer Art Walk LA, the organization has been working to make art accessible to all.

“Public art is one of the best ways to do that because it’s art that is out in the public so that everyone can see it. And it’s shared because we can all see it,” Parakilas said.


Public art defines any art – sculptures, murals and other installations, for example – in publicly accessible places, like a public park.

“It doesn’t have to be ‘easy’ art. It can be challenging, it can be in your face, and it gets people talking, and that’s part of what’s good about it,” he said.

Public art’s utility to a community is multi-faceted, in other words. It can be commemorative, like The Union Statue in front of the Androscoggin County Building on Court Street in Auburn, commissioned to honor the memory of those who fought “to preserve the union.” It can beautify a cityscape, like the giant blue jay painted by Portland artist Jared Goulette on a wall in a parking lot off Main Street in Lewiston. And it can be inspirational and “empowering,” in Parakilas’ words, such as a larger-than-life zebra leaping across the side of the Centerville Parking Garage in Lewiston, it’s many colors representing Lewiston’s growing immigrant community.

“One of the advantages of putting art in the public is you can see it being made. You can see, if a mural is going up on a wall of a building, you can see the art’s there, you know, with the scaffolding and wall that looks blank, (that) is turned into something colorful and beautiful,” he said.

“And then you begin to think, ‘Well, I could do something like that.’”

More public art is popping up on L-A’s streets than ever before, thanks to a number of initiatives led by organizations such as L-A Arts, in collaboration with city government.


Situate Sculpture, created by Aaron Stephan in 2008, is located at Farwell School in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

To make it easy to find public art in the Twin Cities, L-A Arts has created a map and self-guided tours. The map shows where the art is located and offers descriptions of each piece. Many of the pieces are in and near the downtowns. Some, however are farther out of the downtown, such as Aaron Stephen’s Situate Sculpture, which recreates a classroom scene at 84 Farwell St. in Lewiston, and Kate Cargile’s Red Fox mural at 741 Main St. in Lewiston.

The art offerings throughout Lewiston and Auburn include murals, sculptures, graffiti and what the website calls “Out of the ordinary,” which includes art on crosswalks, rocks and fire hydrants.

Next month, more than 150 years since Lewiston installed Simmons’ Union solider statue in Kennedy Park, the Twin Cities will dedicate three more pieces of art.

A dedication ceremony for all three — Susan Harkins’ “Persevere and Progress,” a mural honoring the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, located in Dufresne Plaza on downtown Lisbon Street in Lewiston; artist Andy Rosen’s installation “Ledgers” along the canal next to Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston; and sculptor Hugh Lassen’s “Bud Form,” located at the entrance of Longley Memorial Bridge in Auburn — will take place during next month’s Art Walk, on June 24.

As for the future, the cities and various organizations are working on — or already have in place — public art plans. They include:

  • The Downtown Lewiston Association’s mural commissions;
  • The Public Theatre in Lewiston, which is getting ready to put a mural on its building;
  • Healthy Neighborhoods’ “Growing Our Tree Streets” plan, which includes funds for public art;
  • An upcoming downtown Lisbon Street mural celebrating the city’s African immigrant population by Portland artist Ryan Adams, commissioned by L/A Arts.

Parakilas mentioned that Lewiston and Auburn are also working on creating standing committees on public art to encourage, monitor and sustain public art.

For more details about Art Walk LA and to find a map and self-guided tours of public art, visit or go to

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