Proposed public art to move forward

By Beth A. Birmingham | Sep 04, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Planning Board Chairman Joanne Richards holds a before and after picture Aug. 20 of the proposed public art at the back of Thomaston Grocery. Only one resident attended the information meeting.

Thomaston — Despite some resistance, the Thomaston Board of Selectmen agreed Aug. 26 to move forward with a painted mural proposed for the back of the Thomaston Grocery building.

Planning Board Chairman Joanne Richards, who favors strict enforcement of town ordinances, held a public meeting Aug. 20 at which only one resident showed up. At that meeting, friendly debate took place between Richards and Code Enforcement Officer Bill Wasson on the distinction between artwork and signs.

The current ordinance prohibits painted signs on buildings in town, according to Richards, and the proposed mural clearly shows "Thomaston Grocery" painted on an awning within it.

Richards said that there was discussion at the meeting as to the need for some guidance with regard to public art. "Some felt that art as an expression of the artist should not be regulated," she said.

Richards voiced concern that murals painted on the mid-19th-century brick of the main buildings in the village commercial district -- if later determined to need removal -- might permanently damage the brick and integrity of the building.

"I also voiced concern that inappropriate artwork might be placed in public areas of the town, and some regulation by means of an Arts Committee or possible ordinance might be warranted," she said.

However, the selectmen decided there was no need to regulate the artwork in town; therefore, there will be no Arts Committee oversght and no ordinance regarding public art in Thomaston.

If desired, once the mural is completed Thomaston Grocery owner John Vigue could request a permit for an appropriate sign to be attached to the building.

The selectmen held a workshop in July to hear options for using funds left over from the Streetscape Project grant.

Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy presented several ideas, including the public art mural. He explained local artist Nancy Baker had offered to volunteer her time in designing and painting the mural, which is proposed to depict a historic street scene with painted figures in period clothing, windows, sidewalk, an awning and other elements.

Dan Gushee Painting Co. agreed to provide power washing, primer, high quality paint and protective sealer at a cost of approximately $2,000.

The town would own and maintain the public art piece for at least five years.

The board approved the funds to pay for the prep work for the mural and the application of protective coating after the mural is completed.

The project will not be started until next spring, and once the exterior work is completed, Baker will need about a month to complete the mural.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at

Comments (4)
Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Sep 05, 2019 09:05

Even I am in favor of this public art project.  (Glad these comments aren't widely read.)  However, I don't like the idea the town is helping pay for it.

Posted by: Joanne Lee Richards | Sep 04, 2019 21:11

Actually I like the art work on the Grasshopper Shop Mr Mazzeo.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 04, 2019 14:22

Then you probably wouldn't like the Grasshopper Shop in Rockland. Sad!

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 04, 2019 13:39

Not sure I agree with this so called art process on public buildings.

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