GARDINER — Edwin Arlington Robinson has returned to Gardiner in a bold and unexpected way, carrying with him this message: “I shall have more to say when I am dead.”

His image, rendered in paper and applied with wheat paste to the rear wall of 277 Water St., the building that houses Artdogs Studios, signals the start of an art project that its organizer hopes will spur additional pieces and a communitywide discussion of art.

So far, it seems to be working.

The eye-catching piece is clearly visible to those who use the Arcade parking lot and the roadways that offer views of the back sides of buildings on the east side of Water Street.

Last week, Kerstin Gilg sought and gained approval from the City Council for a mural to be put up; and he next goes to the Gardiner Historic Preservation Commission in July, where he hopes to receive a certificate of appropriateness for the project. He’s already earned the endorsement of Gardiner Main Street, which has agreed to act as the fiscal agent for the project.

“I think it’s fantastic,” District 2 Councilor Pat Hart said. “How long to do you think it will last?”

Gilg said Robinson could be up for perhaps two years, depending on weather. He’s working on setting up a fund to pay for re-installation or removal of the piece in the event that it becomes tattered. Right now, the artists taking part are paying to produce and put up the pieces.

Robinson, born in 1869 in nearby Head Tide, grew up in Gardiner. As an adult, he lived in New York City and wrote poetry while working for a time at the New York Customs Office. During the 1920s, he won the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work. He died in 1935 in New York City.

The quote that appears with his likeness is the closing line of his work “John Brown.”

Historic as Robinson is, this project falls under the modern umbrella of tactical urbanism, which covers a wide range of low-cost and easy-to-accomplish projects that are intended to enliven urban spaces.

“Urban art as a civic impetus to address public space was really appealing to me,” Gilg said.

The idea came into focus for him in 2014, when he took part in a show called “Variations VII,” which featured the work of members from Artdogs Studios. His work referenced Gardiner’s history as the home of paper mills and tension between economic advancement and maintaining authenticity.

The Gardiner Paper Project will use wheat paste and paper to bring intentionally temporary visual artwork to the rear of the Water Street buildings. Wheat paste has been used by artists for centuries as an adhesive. Gilg chose it specifically because works created with it are temporary and it’s relatively easy to remove. He enlisted the help of Peter Precourt, of Winthrop, to render Robinson in paper as a way to kick off the project. Robinson was installed over Memorial Day weekend.

While such projects often are considered a form of guerrilla art, Gilg said he’s seeking permission from both building owners and city officials. “I appreciate law and order and not wrecking other people’s things,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to encourage graffiti.

Gilg, who uses the pseudonym Paul Hoi for his role of artist-as-entertainer when he creates public art, likens this project to building a airplane in flight. As he envisions it, the images would combine the city’s history with an imagined future, with historic images displayed on the top floors and futuristic images on the ground floor.

Although these works are not murals, Gilg went before the City Council seeking approval for a mural, just to be safe. “I guess I hope it doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that we get engagement and buy-in. I hope we’re discussing the idea behind the project and not whether it’s a mural.”

A number of ideas and locations have been identified, but there’s no hard schedule. In the next couple of weeks, he said another piece could go up on Dennis’ Pizza.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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