Six colorful new banners now brighten the formerly nondescript southern wall of the Hannaford supermarket in downtown Brunswick. Tariq Haq’s vibrant vinyl banners, called Cornucopia, were installed late Tuesday night, and were introduced to the public at a formal ceremony at the neighboring Brunswick Station train platform on Wednesday.
Haq, who graduated in May, was commissioned to do the work by Hannaford Supermarkets after his design was selected among 19 proposals developed by students in A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art Mark Wethli’s spring 2011 Public Art course. This class introduces students to the contemporary practice of public art, from murals and sculptures to new media and interventionist approaches.
Haq says his inspiration for Cornucopia was the Brunswick Farmer’s Market. Each 13-foot vinyl banner celebrates a local fruit or vegetable, and each has “Brunswick” printed at the base, with the idea that these signs will be one of the first things train riders see as they enter town.
“Growing up in Maine, just 50 minutes north of here, in Waterville, I am quite familiar with the farmers market tradition in Maine and all that it has to offer,” Haq said in his remarks at the ceremony. But he added that his piece represents more than locally grown produce. It also celebrates Brunswick’s vitality — its new train station, new restaurants and shops, new accommodations, and new residents arriving every year. “Indeed, this community has successfully united both the young and the old, blue and white collar, and has created a space to meet the needs of so many in this diverse community. Cornucopia is intended to express these values and to underscore Brunswick’s commitment to sustainability, the arts, and to fostering a community where all walks of life are welcome,” he said.
The link between Wethli’s art students and the town began when Susan Weems, of the Brunswick Public Art Group, approached Wethli 18 months ago to ask whether his students could bring their ideas to life to benefit Brunswick. After scouring Brunswick for possible locations, the students came up with original conceptions for proposed projects. They then put up models and renderings of their designs at Curtis Memorial Library in March 2011, and the public was invited to share their opinions. “Of the 19 ideas that the class came up with, Tariq’s design was the one that was chosen, based on a consensus of public opinion as well as that of the Brunswick Public Art Group,” Wethli explained.
Wethli said Haq’s academic background — he was a visual arts and government major — gave him a particular sensitivity to this type of work. “Tariq’s unique feeling for the public sphere and for civic life in general blended perfectly with his exceptional skills, aptitudes, and vision as a designer, to enable him to excel as a public artist,” Wethli said at the ceremony. “Tariq’s designs for this project are admirable not only for what you see on the banners alone — which are beautiful in themselves — but for the way their design, placement, and architectural qualities activate and help define the view we see today.”
He closed his remarks by saying one of the most exciting outcomes of the project was “the positive example that it sets for all of us in its productive partnership between business, community, local government, education, and the arts.”
Mia Baker, Hannaford’s store manager in Brunswick, and Benet Pols, a Brunswick town councilor, also spoke at the ceremony.