Portland artist’s latest project turning heads in Kittery

Over the years Portland native Ryan Adams has earned a reputation for being one of the leading cutting edge artists in town.

Ryan Adams in 2013. Photo, Brittany Quirk.

Ryan Adams in 2013. Photo, Brittany Quirk.

Emerging as an underground spray paint artist several years ago, Adams now works with the Portland Mural Initiative, which “aims to bring contemporary art into the public spaces of Portland and its surrounding areas,” according to their website.

You can check some of Adams’ art out on his website, and you can also see his work at various places around town (if you know where to look).

Adams working on a mural at Novare Res Biere Cafe in downtown Portland in 2014. Photo, Bethany Glatz.

Adams working on a mural at Novare Res Biere Cafe in downtown Portland in 2014. Photo, Bethany Glatz.

Over the course of the past month or so, he’s been working on the largest sized painting of his career. He finished last weekend, and he made a few headlines along the way.

What started as a Kittery woman’s desire to enhance the look of a commercial property that she owns turned into a local controversy once town officials noticed the colorful mural taking shape.

Image from Ryan Adams.

Image from Ryan Adams.

Barbara Rita Jenny, the Portsmouth-based artist who bought the property with her husband in March, said the building was “ugly,” and that’s where Adams came in.

“She reached out to Will Sears and Tessa Greene O’Brien, the co-founders of the Portland Mural Initiative,” said Adams on Tuesday, “and then they reached out to me.”

“I was thrilled for the opportunity.”

Adams shares a laugh with his girlfriend Rachel as she helps him with some of the grunt work. Image from Ryan Adams.

Adams shares a laugh with his girlfriend Rachel as she helps him with some of the project’s grunt work. Image from Ryan Adams.

The building, which sits on Route 1 in Kittery near Interstate 95, has an interesting history.

“It used to be the Kittery Police Department’s building,” said Adams. Before that it was a state police barracks, and currently is home to several businesses including Jenny’s husband Matthew Beebe’s wood workshop.

When he was about halfway done on the weeks-long project, Kittery code enforcement officers sent Jenny an email telling her to stop the painting after someone stopped by the site to question Adams, reports the Portsmouth Herald.

But despite the town’s request, Jenny and Adams saw the painting through to completion.

“All I did was hire a painter to paint my building who happens to be painting it multi colors,” said Jenny.

“There’s no ordinance against that.”

-If you look closely, you can see the phrase “You Make Everything Grand” camouflaged in the mural.-

Image from Ryan Adams.

Image from Ryan Adams.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.