LEWISTON — Artist and Lewiston native Charlie Hewitt would like to hoist a 30-foot aluminum outline of the word “Hopeful” onto the side of Bates Mill No. 5, light it on New Year’s Eve and keep it lit 24/7 for years to come.

It is not so much a statement about the fate of the mill, he said, as a message to his hometown.

Lewiston native and renouned artist Charlie Hewitt. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I would love for Lewiston to become a destination and people drive in, look at how beautiful this city is, meet the people,” Hewitt said. “My family came down those rivers in the ’20s, and there’s new (immigrants) here now. It’s just a silent prayer … for my community, that we can get together again and embrace what makes this great.”

The proposed art installation, which is going in front of the City Council on Tuesday, is a collaboration between Hewitt, mill developer Tom Platz and fabricator Neocraft Signs.

“This is a little out of our wheelhouse for a sign company, but he is asking for a sign – it’s a sign of hope,” Neocraft project manager Patrick Bolduc said.

Hewitt, who lives in Yarmouth and was behind the “Lewiston Rattle” sculpture, said the idea for the project came to him last January.

“I was just feeling a little anxious about the political climate, the narrative in the country,” he said. “I said to my wife, ‘I feel a little hopeless with this.’”

He decided to flip that script. Hewitt worked with graphic designers David and Sean Wolfe on the font, and in May hung his first, 24-foot-long “Hopeful” sign at Woodfords Corner in Portland, on the top of the Speedwell Projects art gallery.

“I knew I wanted one here as well,” Hewitt said.

Artist Charlie Hewitt, top, hands a piece of of the sculpture he designed to Pat Bolduc of NeoKraft Signs in its Lewiston production facility Thursday afternoon. The 30-foot LED “Hopeful” piece of art is being created to hang on the wall of Bates Mill No. 5 across from Pedro O’Hara’s on Main Street. They plan to have it installed with ceremonial lighting on New Year’s Eve. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

He worked with Platz, with whom he’s collaborating to create an art trail around the Bates Mill Complex, to pick the side of Bates Mill No. 5, saying he liked the sight lines from Auburn.

Platz, who has developed much of the mill complex and is working on redevelopment plans for Mill 5, said he was thrilled when Hewitt pitched the idea.

“Having a nationally recognized artist place his second piece of work at the city gateway shows a true belief in our transformation,” he said. “I think his art is just the beginning of continued exhibits of culture, architecture and business that are thriving in the L-A landscape.”

After hearing about the plan this week during a workshop, if the City Council approves it at its Dec. 17 meeting, “Hopeful” would hang 25 feet off the ground on the side of the building facing Main Street. The highest point, at the top of the “f,” measures 8 feet, 10 inches tall.

“Hopeful” would be installed the week of Dec. 17, and the LED lights lit at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

“It is an uplifting piece that captures the spirit of the community at this moment in time,” said Lincoln Jeffers, the city’s director of economic and community development. “It reflects progress that has occurred, and to come.”

Bolduc said the lightbulbs inside should last for several years. Neocraft started constructing the sign in late November.

Also a Lewiston native, Bolduc likes the symbolism behind where the sign would hang.

“There is hope for Mill 5,” he said. “It has been this big shell, it would be great to see it come alive.”


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