Maintenance mechanic Chris Landry places Charlie Hewitt’s Hopeful sign in a corridor at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston in 2023. Hewitt and the city of Lewiston are planning to send a sign to a city in Ukraine as a gesture of solidarity as the war stretches into a third year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Artist Charlie Hewitt is still getting used to seeing his “Hopeful” sign all over the place.

What began with a single lighted aluminum sign in Portland in 2019 has now grown to at least 14 permanent installations, including signs in Lewiston and Rumford. The image can now be seen on bumper stickers and pins, and has been featured on electronic billboards exiting the Lincoln Tunnel in New York, or on high school banners and elsewhere.

Recently, when a fellow Portland artist was teaching in Ukraine, she brought along a “Hopeful” bumper sticker, and according to Hewitt, the image caught on locally through the help of social media.

On Monday, Hewitt and Lewiston city officials will dedicate a sign to Ukrainians during a gathering at 3 p.m. Monday in the Council Chamber of City Hall at 27 Pine St. It will be shipped to the city of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine. A solidarity gathering is also being held Sunday at the Basilica to mark two years of the continuing conflict.

Lewiston native Charlie Hewitt stands in 2022 at his studio in a former florist shop in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I just know that when people are grieving, it’s nice to reach out,” Hewitt said, “and we have something unique that’s made right here in our hometown, and I wanted to offer it through the city.”

The signs are built by the Lewiston-based Neokraft Signs, which will also be on hand Monday. Phil Bolduc, owner of Neokraft, dedicated a “Hopeful” sign to his hometown of Rumford in 2023. The Lewiston sign is on the side of Bates Mill No. 5 facing Main Street.


“In a time marked by turmoil and loss, the Hopeful Project aims to offer solace, strength and to remind our Ukrainian friends that they are not alone — that even in the darkest of times, there is light,” a city news release said Friday. “Now, inspired by this ethos of hope, Hewitt and the people of Lewiston extend a gesture of solidarity to the people of Ukraine.

Mayor Carl Sheline, who is helping organize Sunday’s gathering at the Basilica, has several Ukrainian friends who have been deeply impacted by the war, and has since met Ukrainian immigrants living in Lewiston.

“Ukraine’s struggle for freedom is our call to action and there is always hope,” Sheline said Friday. “They need our support right now and this sign from Charlie Hewitt represents solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters during this critical hour.”

Hewitt said he has struggled with the idea that the Hopeful Project, which has taken on a life of its own, could be viewed as a publicity tool for himself. But he said he continues to see “people relate to and react to it” through periods of turmoil or tragedy like the pandemic, and most recently, the Lewiston shooting.

In November 2023, a Hopeful sign went up in Central Maine Medical Center after a fundraiser he supported generated $60,000 for the city of Lewiston’s Families and Victims Fund.

“I feel like it’s become on old flag,” he said. “It’s starting to get a patina and a life and I think it’s uniquely Maine.”

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