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Peace and Justice Center community mural meant to build unity

A few mural painters stood in front of the finished project during the unveiling on June 30 thanking those who assisted with the mural and those who help the city of Bangor. Andrew Williams (left) holds his daughter, Aurora Williams, 3. Andrea Simoneau, the Peace and Justice Art Coordinator, and volunteer painters Tyler-Ann Harris and Leia Riker, 14, stand to Williams’ right.
Kassadi Moore| BDN

By Kassadi Moore

For The Weekly

BANGOR– There are many sore subjects in the current political climate. The Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine hopes to set aside those issues and create some unity by painting a mural for all people of Bangor.

“There is a lot of fear as of late toward communities, a lot of separation among communities, because they are afraid,” said Andrea Simoneau, the art coordinator for the Peace and Justice Center.

The theme of the mural is Bangor’s Diverse Communities: Build a Stronger Bangor.

The mural is centered around two trees that Leia Riker, 14, envisioned to represent Bangor.

“The people are helping water the trees so the trees will grow, and the trees represent the community, and the people helping the community grow with all the businesses around it,” said Riker.

Bordering the trees are leaves illustrating a person, business, organization, church or non-profit that aids the people of Bangor. Stephen King is featured alongside Dysart’s Restaurant, Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor Ecumenical Food Cupboard, Oriental Jade, Holly No. 7 Birth Center and Family Health, Carleton Project, Bangor Area Recovery Network, Maine Mental Health Connections and many others.

“When it started, we wanted to highlight places like the Islamic Center,” said Simoneau. “They offer a free supper every month; they raise money for the homeless..”

Simoneau said she hopes the mural can be a road map for those in need. Many people walked by and said there were services on the mural they didn’t know were in Bangor.

“This is to get them thinking,” said Simoneau.

The mural is displayed on the new birthing center in Bangor, Holly No. 7 Birth Center and Family Health. Chris Yentes, the owner of the center, has been a midwife for 25 years.

In fact, one of the children Yentes delivered helped paint the mural along with about 30 other people.

“A few [people] have asked about the building in general,” said Simoneau. “We’re hoping that the mural will bring business to Holly No. 7.” She said she hopes the mural will draw more people up the hill from downtown and build commerce in the area in general.

Some children who attended the Peace and Justice Center’s art camp helped paint the mural.  The art camp ran every Monday and Wednesday from the middle of May to the middle of July. The camp was partially devoted to teaching the kids how to paint a mural. To practice, they painted the windows at the Bangor Discovery Museum.

High schoolers from the Carleton Project at the Shaw House also painted the mural.

Passers-by walking on Hammond Street or crossing through the parking lot next to the birth center, either gave the painters praise, suggestions or grabbed a brush to put their own marks on the mural.

“We’ve got overwhelming positive reaction from this neighborhood,” said Simoneau. “Everyone who’s passed by has told us how nice it is to see something positive going up in the area.”

The suggestions from people helped fill in the empty leaves. Simoneau said many people said they wanted to feature mental health organizations.

Simoneau is hoping the positive reaction from the people and businesses in Bangor will allow the Peace and Justice Center to have similar projects in the future. She hopes to paint a mural downtown, which is a more difficult procedure in the historic district.

She also plans to paint another mural for the End Violence Together march on Saturday, Sept.16, in downtown Bangor. The march is hosted by the Peace and Justice Center.

“For End Violence Together event, we are going to be taking suggestions from the community … of ways that in their personal lives they contribute to de-escalating violence,” said Simoneau.

Those suggestions will be incorporated into a the mural. The big picture for the mural, and the ones in the future, is to bring Bangor together.

“It takes all of Bangor to make Bangor work, and make sure the needs of the citizens are met,” said Simoneau.

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