BOWDOINHAM — A collection of myths is leading the Merrymeeting Arts Center down a path of even greater mystery.

The arts center is beginning a search for four missing pieces to Bryce Muir’s “Local Myths” collection. Muir was the inspiration for the center, starting shortly after his death in 2005. The collection holds a special meeting to the center and the town.

“Bryce was very focused, we talked a lot about mythology and whether you can create a modern mythology that would have the timelessness and the ritual richness that non-western cultures and indigenous people have, said Bryce’s wife Peggy Muir. “That’s what he was trying to do for this town.”

Peggy and her son Seth gifted the collection to the center as a part of MAC’s tenth anniversary in June. The 12 pieces sit prominently displayed in the gallery, with each telling a different story, or “myth”, related to Bowdoinham.

“It’s preserving Bryce’s legacy certainly,” said MAC board member Jan Marks. “To have them intact would just be spectacular for generations to come.”

Muir aimed to give Bowdoinham a modern mythology based on the culture and things he would see around town. Each sculpture, made from mixed hardwoods, was crafted to represent a season or month of the year. A vibrant, creative take on local wildlife is used to bring each myth to life. For example, “Smelt Makes The Ice” pays homage to the area’s smelt fishing tradition.

“I think he succeeded in creating a modern mythology,” said Marks. We’re just the caretakers of it now, we need to keep it alive and make it accessible.”

“I think the word timelessness, how do you you capture the timelessness of a town or a landscape? Which is what myth does,” added Peggy Muir. “Each of these pieces can be a source of tremendous local memory, which the historical society, we’ve worked with them so often I can see them having audio archives based on this.”

The answer to the mystery of the four missing pieces won’t be easy to solve. Bryce’s work is spread out across the country, and abroad. Peggy recalled a story of a man who once flew on a personal plane from Chicago to pick up a piece he commissioned Bryce to create. The journey of each missing piece likely has it’s own story. Bryce completed the series in the mid-1990’s, and Peggy estimates the missing art from the collection could have been sold about 25 years ago.

“I could see the process of bringing them back being an interesting sort of historical trajectory, where have they been the last few years?” said MAC president Howard Solomon. “Part of what makes this town so vibrant is people are engaged and they’ll take on a task.”

The first step for arts center members is creating a missing flyer for the absent pieces that include a raven, eagle, cricket, and deer. Each sculpture has it’s own whimsical take, something Bryce was known for. As members of an arts center and gallery, they will use connections in the art world and hopefully make some new ones. Solomon plans to reach out to museums and galleries.

For Peggy Muir, she looks forward to a reunion of “Local Myths” to see where they have been. She recalled speaking to a man in Massachusetts who had an animal orchestra created by Bryce. The mystery of the sculptures will hopefully bring new connections for Muir and the town of Bowdoinham. There’s a personal connection for her behind the myths as well.

“The great heron is called the Tryzellaar,” said Muir. “Bryce made that when I had to have surgery. I had a benign tumor in my throat. He saw it as the great heron, the surgeon, going after the frog in my throat.”

The Tryzellaar comes from the name of Peggy’s surgeon, and she would later be contacted the surgeon’s son who had found a picture of the piece online.

Bryce wrote a book connected to the collection, sharing the myths he had created to intertwine with Bowdoinham’s history and geography. The hope is the current collection, along with finding the missing pieces will help new generations connect to the history and myth of Bowdoinham. Bryce tried to capture the whimsy of the town, and Solomon could see the full collection capturing imaginations.

“It’s quite likely those pieces are not in Bowdoinham or in Maine,” he said. “These are sort of the entry points down into that cavern of memory. As we’ve cleared out the space and seeing it with fresh eyes, I could see it as an installation piece.”

In ten years, the arts center has succeeded in capturing the imagination of residents. Muir is proud of the fact that over 600 artists have been able to share their work through the center with artists as young as two years old. They have stayed true to a motto of “art for everyone”.

“It’s a comfortable place for people who’ve never been in the art world, visitors that have never gone into galleries,” said Muir. “He (Bryce) felt very strongly that if it moved you, than it was art. It’s the idea of not having a jury where artists feel judged.”

The arts center will likely look for ways to engage the town in the search for the missing pieces. The collection is a gift to the community of Bowdoinham, and it may take a community to bring the myths together again.