A Best Kept Secret

As the nation has gradually taken steps towards normalcy, including pastimes like attending live performances and engaging with other forms of art, we’ve seen a noticeable increase of support in the Lewiston-Auburn community for public art. 

Alison Gibbs, the office and communications manager at L/A Arts, has noted different pieces of public art that have generated buzz and community pride. Charlie Hewitt’s Hopeful sign on the Bates Mill. Andy Rosen’s brick foxes in the canal by Baxter Brewing. Hugh Lassen’s Bud Form sculpture by the Longley Bridge in Auburn.

Responding to this surge in interest and creativity, Bates students Julia Henderson ‘22 and Ronan Goulden ‘22 spent time last spring conducting a community-engaged research project as part of the Community-Engaged Research in Environmental Studies course taught by Professor Francis Eanes. “Our project was essentially split into three parts: creating a digital map to catalogue public art in Lewiston-Auburn; creating public art walking, biking, and driving tour routes and brochures; and creating a scoring rubric to guide decision-making around where public artworks would be sited in the future,” Henderson said. The goal of their project, as stated in their report, was to showcase and facilitateenjoyment and access of L/A’s growing body of public artworks while also laying the groundwork for more works and considering issues like gentrification, beautification, and community identity.

“I would say that our work means different things to different people, but our ultimate goal was for the tools we created to engage not just people who already knew about these public artworks or were part of the local artistic community, but also those who may never have stopped to appreciate them before,” Henderson said.

Both Goulden and Henderson have noticed that there are many people–artists, city officials, and other community residents–who are excited at the prospect of more investment in public art in L-A. On reflection, Goulden said that the reason he enjoyed the project is the same reason he enjoys his work as a Bonner Leader at Bates: He simply loves engaging with the community.

So far, according to Goulden, they have received a lot of “super positive” feedback about their project from faculty members, local artists, business owners, and more. “I think one thing people are really excited about is that our digital map is both useful and compelling as it is now, and it will be easy to build upon going forward. We created it so others can continue to add art to the map and create more tours.”

“I hope our project encourages people to come into the community and really see that it truly is a wonderfully engaging and diverse place to be. I also hope it motivates the Lewiston and Auburn city governments to continue investing in public art,” Goulden said. 

For her part, Gibbs is proud of Goulden and Henderson and believes their work will have a positive impact in the future. “Bringing all these artworks together with a digital map and tours makes the works accessible to so many people,” Gibbs said. “These tools were eagerly anticipated not only by L/A Arts, but also by the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce, city governments, and downtown businesses. We’re really grateful to Ronan and Julia for their inspired work, and we’re thrilled with the success of the project.

To view the map, click here.