Rachel & Ryan Adams have been dodging raindrops for the past few days to complete their painting of a quilt mural on a 63 ft. long and 12 ft. high blank wall on the side of Root Wild, at the corner of Walnut Street and Washington Avenue on Munjoy Hill – today. Thursday and Friday the couple could not paint this commissioned work, so they had to paint over the weekend, alternating days because of child care responsibilities. Volunteers have come in to assist them from time to time to assist in the push to completion.
Negotiations for this mural of a quilt began last October. That’s when John Edwards, owner of the building in which Root Wild is based, approached Indigo Arts looking for someone to paint a “community” mural on that wall. Artist Daniel Minter, co-founder of Indigo Arts Alliance, recommended Rachel & Ryan for the job.
Folklore claims that the North Star was placed on properties in the south to indicate to escaping slaves they could find safe refuge in that place said Minter. Minter arrived yesterday with chunks of wood to build a platform that would enable a volunteer artist, Terry, to reach the top of the mural for finishing touches.
There are four local artists whose work is depicted in four different locations on the mural. The artists are: Ebenezer Akaktko, Jason Brown, Pam Chevez and Rachel Adams.
“We compliment each other with our different styles and strengths. We work through things differently,” said Ryan recently of how the duo works together on projects. “Ryan is more precise and rigid in his work. I’m more organic and free flowing,” said Rachel.
Although Ryan has been painting for decades, possibly his most well known work was a stunning portrait of the murdered George Floyd on the wall behind Aura. It took six hours to paint and has since been painted over. “It was never meant to stay” he said.
Rachel’s most prominent art work was a mural in the ball room on the top floor at the Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine, under construction at Thompson’s Point. It was Chris Sullivan, a Munjoy Hill resident, who hired her for that position because he had seen some of her previous art work. It was a six day project for Rachel.
Ryan, a Portland native, is a self-taught artist. He has several aunts who are artists and live out-of-state. He talks to them from time to time for their advice. His father, Ralph, was a union pipe-fitter for S. D. Warren. His mother, Sheila, worked in the insurance business.
Rachel is from Ayre, Massachusetts and she graduated from Maine College of Art in Portland. Her intent was to pursue print making, but it was so complicated to get started that she turned to painting.
Their high profile work has proven to be a boon for the couple’s professional careers.. Ryan said he is booked through October for mural work. He has a project scheduled for Thursday at a teen center in Waterville – so completing the Munjoy Hill project in a timely manner has a special urgency to it. “It’s been a wild ride,” said Rachel. The couple has been overwhelmed with inquiries regarding hiring them to do murals – both in state and out-of-state. “Inquiries come in daily,” she said, without divulging details.
“There has been a cultural awakening where people are realizing that the country was overlooking a lot of Black creators. This is my work. This is how I express myself and I’m appreciative that people give me the space to do what I love to do,” said Ryan.