Professional artists, teens and community volunteers collaborated on an ambitious large-scale mural for the Recreation Center this summer.

The 390-square-foot mural fills an entire wall in the gym with colorful images of Rockland past, present and future.

“We wanted it to be a community project,” said Recreation Director Rene Dorr.

To that end the mural has exceeded his expectations, he said. More than 25 artists worked on the project, from Rockland District Middle School students, to tourists who grew up in Maine and had fond childhood memories of the recreation center. A few collaborators were professionals, but many who worked on the mural were first-time artists.

“It’s taken on a life of its own,” said Dorr.

The mural began with Dorr’s desire to brighten the blank wall of the gym. He turned to teaching artists Alexis Iammarino and Sarah Rogers who designed the mural with the help of brainstorming sessions held throughout the city. The mural project then became the focus of the Arts in Action workshops that are open to Rockland-area middle and high school students free of charge.

“A core group of sixth-grade boys put in the most hours,” said Iammarino. “They formed our main posse.”

Iammarino and Rogers enjoyed working with the students. “They are very capable and focused,” said Rogers. “Then sometimes they need to just roll around on the floor and play and we remember that they are 11.”

The mural is rich in detail with images that are quintessential Rockland. Lighthouses, lobsters and boats are of course represented, but so are the stars in the night sky, livestock, athletes and scholars. Bees and honeycombs evoke the city seal, hot dogs and ice cream celebrate summer festivals. The complexity of the mural warrants repeated viewings.

Considering the breadth of the subject, the mural is surprisingly cohesive, thanks to the custom-designed color palette modeled after the depression-era murals of the WPA Federal Art Project. This is a fitting tribute as the Recreation Center building was a WPA project in 1936.

The cost of the mural to taxpayers was minimal. Arts in Action is funded largely by an anonymous donor to RSU 13, and Dorr said the material costs were around $500. Iammarino said that a project of this scale could easily have a budget of $60,000.

“I would normally apply for a grant from the Maine Arts Commission and then hire professional artists,” she said, “We’ve shown that there is another way to do it.”

Dorr expects the mural to be completed for a formal unveiling in mid-September. Rather than the typical wine and cheese art opening, he is planning for a family-friendly ice cream social. According to Iammarino, the main posse of RDMS sixth-graders is already planning what to wear.

Courier Publications reporter Tina Swanson can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at tswanson@villagesoup.com.