HALLOWELL (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Like many Maine cities with waterfront property, Hallowell is often busiest when the weather is warm. However, a massive construction project along Water Street has created a detour away from those downtown businesses.
What if people stopped coming?
What if they, rightfully so, wanted to avoid the constant dump trucks and bulldozers?
Business owners helped form a committee called "Down With The Crown," hoping it might find ways to keep attracting visitors downtown.
"There was a crown in the road on Water Street," explains Deb Fahy, the Executive Director for The Harlow Gallery, and a member of the committee. "People who have come here often will remember there are some areas where you’re parking your car, when you open your car on the sidewalk side it would scrape your door and you’d have to push to get out."
A big piece of the construction project with the Maine Department of Transportation and Sargent Corporation was to remove the crown. "We did a whole new water line, brand new drainage, new brick sidewalks and new pavement," says Karen Libby, the Project Resident with the Maine Department of Transportation.
While there's no question the project will make Water Street more visitor friendly, businesses worried about the customers they would lose for an entire summer. What the "Down With the Crown" committee came up with as a solution, was simply beautiful.
"We’ve given out canvases to the local Montessori school, preschool kids did some. Hall-Dale Elementary, Middle, and High School; the elderly housing facility is going to do one now," says Fahy. The Harlow Gallery invited community members to paint murals about absolutely anything. Those murals now hang on the sidewalk fencing that keeps people out of the construction zone.
Nearly 100 of the paintings hang along Water Street, attracting visitors to view the outdoor art gallery that downtown has become.
It doesn't stop at sidewalk art; some projects are a little more hidden. "Maine DOT even brought us a culvert and plopped it at the end of the street and said here paint on this too," says Fahy. "So Chris Cart, one of our professional photographers in town, did this massive mural of a clown on one side and a monocle on the other and it’s in the street. We all signed it at the end so that piece is in the street with that painting on it. So someday if it gets dug up, there will be this weird clown painting and they will say, what is this?"
Eventually the art will be taken down and auctioned off online. Money from that will help fund more community projects in Hallowell.
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