AUGUSTA, Maine — Every year, sturgeon can be seen jumping through the Kennebec River. Now art is imitating life, as sturgeon are jumping out of the water and onto Water Street in Augusta.
"We were looking for a new art project that would be different than a mural," Augusta Downtown Alliance Executive Director Michael Hall said.
This summer, the Augusta Downtown Alliance has helped facilitate a new public art display on Water Street. A total of 26 fiberglass sturgeon have been installed along the street.
"We felt this was a great symbol not only for the city, but for everything that's been going downtown," Hall said.
Revitalization efforts have made a difference in the downtown Water Street area in recent years, as new stores open and buildings are remodeled. Hall said the Augusta Downtown Alliance received $50,000 grant from T-Mobile to enrich arts and culture within the downtown area.
According to Hall, the sturgeons were created by Fiberglass Farm in Belfast. The sturgeons were then designed and painted by various local artists, nonprofits, and businesses.
"Looking at them every single day, to me, it gives a little bit of pizzazz to where we are on Water Street," Camryn Elliott said.
Elliott helped design one of the sturgeons on display outside of The Studio at Gallant Therapy Services, an art studio in downtown Augusta that works with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, developmental delays, and Autism.
"I think it's a good thing to see everybody's different artwork and everybody's different take on what Maine is to them," Elliott said.
Designs feature everything from a painting of the Maine State House, realistic paintings of sturgeon, and even a tattooed sturgeon outside of SaylorInk Tattoo. Owner Dustin Tribou says his design is based off of a practice skin used by apprentices, and includes many classic tattoo designs and nods to nearby businesses.
"I absolutely loved it," Tribou said. "People have come in just to say, 'Hey, cool fish.'"
The art installation has also given local artists the opportunity to display their work in a uniquely visible space.
Outside of his work at SaylorInk Tattoo, Devin Bachelder says he's had other paintings on display at local studios, but this is his first chance to have his art on display for anyone passing by to see.
"I feel like this place has kind of given me the chance to grow, and I want to grow with it," Bachelder said.
Bachelder said he hopes to continue doing public art in the area.
"You got to come here to see this kind of stuff, because this is where it's at right now," Bachelder said.
Hall says so far, the sturgeon have been very well received in town, and hopes it can draw even more people to the revitalized area.
"Actually, it kind of blew me away. We always knew that they would be popular and they'd be an attraction," Hall said. "But by the time they installed even the first sculpture, we had seven or eight people taking pictures. And it's only grown since then."
According to Hall, the sturgeons will be on display until mid-October. After a winter hibernation, the pieces will be reinstalled around Memorial Day. After two years, the sturgeons will be auctioned off, and the Augusta Downtown Alliance plans to have a new animal or design on display downtown.