SKOWHEGAN — Town officials in August 2009 took a line from the old Ed Sullivan television show, joking that a 4-foot-tall, 70-pound metal sculpture of a running shoe was a “really big shoe.”

Turns out it was really big — too big for the Skowhegan Free Public Library on Elm Street to display it permanently as planned. The welded aluminum sculpture, with painted images of noted Skowhegan places and people such as U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Gov. Abner Coburn, was later put into storage in the closed Bloomfield Academy, where it remains.

Skowhegan selectmen last month agreed to mount and display the sculpture in the downtown municipal parking lot off Commercial Street along with several other works of art by Maine artist Bernard Langlais. The big shoe is owned by the trustees of Bloomfield Academy, which also owns and operates the library.

Under the agreement with the town, the trustees would provide insurance coverage and be responsible for all maintenance and repair.

Apparently that was not the end of the saga of the big shoe, however, and the approved deal with the town is now in question.

After a meeting of the Bloomfield Academy board of trustees on Tuesday, the status of the big shoe appears to be in limbo for now, said Skowhegan attorney Warren Shay, a member of the Bloomfield Academy board.


“We got an agreement with the town by which we would put the shoe down there, and it calls for us to insure liability on the shoe,” Shay said Wednesday afternoon. “The agreement calls for insurance, and we weren’t sure what it was going to cost us, so we put a hold on that.”

The shoe still could end up outside the library, but Shay said the board will take another look at it and see what the insurance costs will be.

The sculpture, which is on wheels, was in the library’s foyer for a while and then was placed on the front lawn. It went to the Skowhegan State Fair in 2011. It was pushed down Madison Avenue by library volunteers and high school cheerleaders as part of the Move More Kids initiative to battle childhood obesity.

But space became a problem at the library.

Last month, during the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen’s final meeting of the year, Bloomfield trustees, the public library and the Design Committee at Main Street Skowhegan were given permission by the town to install the sculpture in the municipal parking lot downtown, where several Langlais sculptures already are on display.

In a 4-1 vote of selectmen on Dec. 22, it was agreed that the Barry Norling sculpture will be placed in the lot behind the Chamber office and next to the Somerset Express bus stop.


Selectman Paul York, the lone dissenting vote, cautioned that the municipal lot was filling up with sculptures. He suggested the big shoe return to its place on the front lawn of the library.

The other selectmen disagreed, saying that the bus stop is “an ideal location.”

Builder Steve Dionne, of Skowhegan, who has worked on renovating and installing the Langlais sculptures, said he would make a concrete platform the shoe could be bolted on. Dionne said he also will experiment with lacquer to protect images of local places and famous local people painted on the sculpture by artist Milton Christianson.

The sculpture of the athletic shoe in motion symbolizes Skowhegan’s heritage as a hub of shoe manufacturing — the New Balance shoe factory is here — and is also meant to draw attention to youth fitness, organizers said. It represents a tribute to the men and women who worked in Skowhegan’s many shoe shops.

The library’s Community Art and Heritage Project commissioned Norling to make the shoe from buffed and welded aluminum. A $3,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation covered the cost.

The shoe sculpture also is designed to bring attention to walking tours of downtown Skowhegan and is meant to encourage people to hike the many trails in the community and at Lake George Regional Park.


“It’s in motion,” then-library director Melissa Gaspar said during the unveiling. “It’s not just a shoe sitting around, not doing anything. This shoe is running, jumping, kayaking. It’s moving. It’s walking. It’s going forward. It’s showing the future of Skowhegan.”

The Move More Kids program is an initiative sponsored by the New Balance Foundation to encourage children to be more active.

The Boston-based New Balance Athletic Shoe Co. is the last American company to manufacture a percentage of its shoes in the United States. It has three factories in Maine in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway and two in Massachusetts. The company also has an outlet store in Skowhegan.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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