Will Sears takes a break after working on his mural in downtown Portland on Wednesday. He said, “I just hope it brings a sense of warmth and joy to people.” Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

A bright new mural being painted on a 56-foot-tall building in the Old Port seems to be spreading positive vibes.

The colorful, abstract design of darting geometric shapes is being painted by South Portland artist Will Sears. The privately funded work replaces a long-loved trompe l’oeil mural depicting an old post office that was painted in 1985 by Scarborough artist Chris Dennison.

The old mural – an amalgamation of the former post office, demolished in 1965, and the current City Hall – was removed when the building at 80 Exchange St. was sold and renovated last year. The new owner, Jim Brady of the Fathom Cos., worked with the Maine College of Art and area preservation groups and businesses to find a new mural to install.

Mark Gatti, who has been operating his hot dog stand next Tommy’s Park for the last 35 years, said the new design is getting mixed reviews from his customers. But generally, feedback has been more positive than negative, he said.

After more than 30 years, the mural on the building at 80 Exchange St. was replaced. The new one is expected to be finished by June 1. 2018 Press Herald photo by Derek Davis

“There’s quite a few people that wish it was more conventional and they miss the old mural,” Gatti said between customers on a warm, sunny afternoon. “I didn’t think I would like it that much, but I have come to enjoy it.”

‘A LITTLE MORE NEW AGE’

Mark Gatti, who has been operating his hot dog stand next Tommy’s Park for 35 years, has now seen three murals on the building facing the park. On Wednesday, he said, “I have come to enjoy” the latest one. Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

Gatti said this is the third mural during his tenure. When he first set up shop in early 1980s, there was a mural depicting a street scene out of the late 1800s to early 1900s with a man and woman in period clothing. And the mural of the post office was a great conversation starter with tourists, he said.

Sears, who was working on the mural Wednesday afternoon with two associates, said he also has heard mixed reviews. He declined to discuss what inspired the design, saying he’d rather let the mural speak for itself.

“I just hope it brings a sense of warmth and joy to people,” Sears said.

And that appears to be what’s happening.

“It’s bright and vibrant and fun,” said Danielle Hansen, a 30-year-old Freeport resident who works downtown. “I like the abstract nature of it.”

Others also embraced the more modern aesthetic.

“It’s really fun,” said Peter John, 31, who lives in the Old Port. “I like that it’s totally different than the last one and that it’s a little more new age.”

PHOTO OPS FORESEEN

Bethany Marshburn Ersek of Gorham said the bright, geometric patterns remind her of murals in Montreal. Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

Bethany Marshburn Ersek stopped to take a photo of the mural while passing through the park. She said the bright, geometric patterns reminded her of murals in Montreal.

“It made me really happy to see it,” the 23-year-old Gorham resident said. “I think it’s exciting to see something fresh and different in the neighborhood. I think it really catches people’s eye. It shows this city cares about art and making people smile.”

Marshburn Ersek predicted that the design would be popular with tourists, especially in the winter, when the trees in Tommy’s Park are adorned with holiday lights.

“This is going to be a place where tourists stop and say, ‘Oh my god, I love Portland,” she said. “And they’re going to stop and want to take photos.”

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