Spirit of the city: Bath unveils downtown gateway mural

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BATH — Where downtown visitors once faced a gray, cinder block barrier and a weathered “Bath/City of Ships” sign, they are now greeted by a colorful mural that captures and celebrates the spirit and history of Bath.

Main Street Bath unveiled and dedicated the mural – called “Spirit of Bath, City of Ships” – in a ceremony at the corner of Vine and Front streets July 28. The occasion also marked MSB’s 15th anniversary.

The downtown revitalization organization chose a design by Christopher Cart of Hallowell after searching for an artist to create a mural to spruce up the 13 Vine St. wall.

The organization received 12 submissions, which a selection committee narrowed down to four finalists, Main Street Bath Director Jake Korb said.

“The group really decided that Chris’ proposal represented the history and spirit of Bath, and that was what they were looking for,” Korb said.

Cart received $5,000 for the work, which included expenses.

While all the submissions were a nod to Bath’s maritime culture, Cart’s focused more on the people behind that culture, Korb explained.

The 82-square-foot mural shows the people who pulled blocks of ice from the Kennebec River for export long before modern-day refrigerators came into being, the workers who built the hulking vessels that sailed up and down the river, and the modern-day ship welders at Bath Iron Works.

The mural also turns from the water to the mainland, showcasing musicians in the street, the city trolley, City Hall, and the flowers placed on lampposts by Main Street Bath.

Along with being aesthetically pleasing, the piece also serves as a way-finding tool for those new to Bath, incorporating signs pointing toward the city’s 15 Commercial St. visitors center and the historic downtown and waterfront.

Cart had to make the mural fit the wall’s convex surface. He painted it off-site over the course of two weeks on to two aluminium panels. The completed panels were brought downtown and affixed to the wall, Cart said in an interview July 29.

“I love doing murals; I’ve got quite a few around the state,” he said, adding that when he heard about the project, “it was something I jumped on.”

He brought to the project a personal feel, having grown up in nearby Phippsburg. Now his home in Hallowell, where he’s a member of the historical society, puts him farther up the Kennebec.

“I just was really thrilled to have the opportunity to create something for essentially my old stomping grounds,” Cart said.

Noting that the piece had to be able to be viewed quickly from passing motorists, “I kept it bigger, bolder,” he said.

It’s certain to be something that catches Cart’s attention every time he passes through Bath and over the Kennebec.

“It’s going to be fun going across the bridge,” he said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Christopher Cart of Hallowell was among 12 artists to submit proposals for the Bath mural project.

“Spirit of Bath, City of Ships,” a mural by Hallowell artist Christopher Cart, now graces the cinder block barrier on Vine Street that greets people entering downtown Bath.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.