PORTLAND — Beauty is its own excuse for being, says Emery Goff.
Though not her original quote, but something first recorded by American Transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 87-year-old resident of 75 State Street said beauty itself was reason enough to add color to the Lower Exchange Street alley.
Goff and a handful of other 75 State Street residents recently brightened up the once dark doors there by painting them with images, like birds and flowers.
“The benefit is obvious,” Goff said. “You’re beautifying something.”
Portland Downtown is an AARP Maine’s 2021 Community Action grant awardee. The funds meant to support door murals and other techniques to create active, welcoming, and safe spaces in unused alleyways.
“Being an AARP grant recipient has the benefit of offering an opportunity to engage our age 50-plus community in making these alleys a more inviting place,” Portland Downtown Executive Director Cary Tyson said.
While there were good things happening in downtown Portland, Tyson thought its alleyways needed some attention.
“Alleys are too often perceived as a negative, a spot for trash or where bad things occur. In point of fact, an alley can be whatever we decide it can be,” he said. “Our goal is to make our alleys more friendly, more inviting. One way to do that is to brighten them up; brighten them with art and bright colors.”
‘IT WAS LIBERATING’
In addition to the visual impacts, Goff, who has lived in the senior living community throughout the pandemic, said the alleyway project had social benefits, as well.
“It was fun to be outside, with other people, and doing something that really improved, even, an ugly door,” she said. “Doing things in groups is always good for people, especially old, COVID-bound people who haven’t had any groups.
“Getting outside and doing something like that was liberating.”