Bowdoin Art Activists is a student group dedicated to creating collaborative town-gown art projects.
“Our big goal is to unite the Brunswick and Bowdoin communities through art,” the group’s leader, Mariah Reading ’16, explained. “And to make public places more beautiful,” co-leader Julia Maine ’16 added.
The student club, which is currently made up of about 10 active members and was founded by Haley Gewandter ’14 two years ago, has recently completed its first big project of the year. Collaborating with nearby schools and local art organizations, Bowdoin Art Activists has helped create a series of thematic murals for the town’s Recreation Center.
In total, five Bowdoin students and 15 middle and high school students painted 16 small murals for the center, which is located in Brunswick Landing at the former Navy base. The 22-inch-by-28-inch panels depict the individual artists’ interpretations of the project’s health and wellness theme.
The panel by Reading, who is a visual arts major, shows a swimmer from below, her body surrounded by blue and white bubbles that look like small floating stones. Maine, a visual arts minor, painted the silhouettes of a moose and two humans doing yoga at sunset. The younger children painted rainbow colored fruits, a sparkly cheerleader (“very sparkly,” Maine reinforced), a basketball playing dragon, a hockey player surrounded by snowflakes, and other scenes.
Reading said that when she consulted with the middle school students on what they wanted, they professed an interest in working not just with the health-and-wellness idea, but also with a “Where’s Waldo” concept. However, than hiding a little man with a red-and-white striped shirt and hat, they wanted to camouflage in their art a lobster, a blueberry, a dragon, a moose, and a bear.
Susan Weems, who spearheads public art projects in Brunswick, praised Reading for her leadership of the project. “Because the center is new, the center was totally void of color and artistic content,” Weems said. “The art work adds some pizzazz and interest to a bland space.”
The schools and organizations that participated in the mural project were St. John’s Catholic School, Brunswick Junior High School, Brunswick High School, and Art Van. The five Bowdoin artists, besides Reading and Maine, were Sara Spicer ’18, Hector Magaña ’16 and Katie Coleman ’16. Though it was a challenge to coordinate all the students, Reading said she was “rejuvenated” by the amount support the project received from community members.
Bowdoin Art Activists aims to do just one or two big community projects a year. Maine said she appreciates the timeframe of longer community projects. “You come up with something permanent and impressive, something that makes people happy,” she said.