Local Artist Completes Mural Encircling Indoor Track

Julie Jo Fehrle

Getting your steps in at the Lawrence Family Fitness Center Tradewind’s Gymnasium just got a lot more fun. Blue Hill artist Julie Jo Fehrle completed a colorful mural, inking nearly 500 feet of wallspace.

She first pitched a mural to Chuck and Belinda Lawrence, the benefactors behind the new center, for the pool’s walls. “But then Covid-19 hit,” Fehrle said. “The Lawrences contacted me at the end of 2022, as the gym and track were getting finalized.”

“I wanted to have images that let the observer see themselves—as the baseball player, kid in the pool, or dinosaur,” Fehrle said. “I liked the idea of many of the figures being ambiguous around race and gender, and also not the usual muscled gym-goer.”

Some Y members might see themselves quite clearly in the images on the wall. One member, and volunteer, is well known for coming to classes on Mondays wearing an orange tutu. She is as passionate about working out at the Y as she is her dog and her stand up paddle board, according to Fehrle. They are now floating between a child stretching and a harbor seal.

The Lawrences themselves are depicted—Chuck was a wrestler so Fehrle added two figures grappling near the water fountain. Belinda enjoys kayaking so the artist tucked a couple paddling on a tree lined pond, toward a rainbow, near the person successfully flyfishing. “Chuck and I are so pleased with all of the paintings that Julie Jo has done. They are so beautiful,” Belinda commented.

“The Lawrences know the winters on the Blue Hill Peninsula are long, cold and dark. Before this facility, there were not a lot of opportunities for indoor exercise,” noted Matt Montgomery, former director of the Blue Hill branch, now CEO of the Down East Family YMCA. “Julie Jo’s artwork captures so much of what we promote at the Y, the variety of activities including lots of stretching, and the message that everyone is welcome.”

The response from track users has been quite positive. “The artwork is amazing and I have members commenting to me daily about it,” Bob Huff, Blue Hill’s new branch director, noted. “We have this beautiful building, thanks to the Lawrences, and their work with Julie Jo makes it even better.”

If people who are becoming members in February mention the mural as part of the reason, the Y will waive the $50 joiner fee, according to Huff. “As I’ve told friends about the mural, I’ve been surprised how many haven’t stepped foot in the Y,” Fehrle said. “I tell them all to come see it—once they’ve seen the great facility, why wouldn’t they keep coming?”

Some Y memberships include free guest passes, Huff said, and he hopes people use them this month to check out the Y and take advantage of the waived joining fee. The YMCA also provide free community time on the weekends, from 1:00-4:00pm, for residents of the YMCA’s Supporting Communities (all Peninsula towns except Castine).

Fehrle is no novice when it comes to executing large scale art projects, frequently working with French artist Ara Starck. Their projects, in New York, Miami, Paris and Venice among other cities, include a 57-foot stained glass wall and a painted fabric ceiling, 30 feet in the air.

In her job as art director for numerous production companies, mostly in New York City, the challenge was to figure out how to execute the clients’ sometimes outrageous requests. Fehrle turned warehouses into reality TV contest kitchens, made Lincoln Center into a TV studio that could be taken down and put back in under an hour every day, and made it snow in August. “Coming up with solutions can take time. With the track walls, I decided I needed to use ink, not paint, so then needed to research all sorts of inks and applicators. If you look behind artwork on my walls at home, you’ll see test patches. Turns out Italian ink worked the best, applied with a ‘mop’,” Fehrle said.

She’s made wall art for the Blue Hill Y before, when it was much smaller in its earlier iteration. “As I recall, the walls were bare and my wife ‘volunteered’ me to paint inspirational quotes on the walls, a lot of quotes! It’s been satisfying to work on projects that so many people see and enjoy.”

Fehrle, an avid Y user and promoter herself, has lived in Blue Hill since she was 2. Another of her large scale projects, a soaring eagle, can be seen at the George Stevens Academy gym.