Cloudy
61°
Cloudy
Hi 64° | Lo 50°

Sculpture to Mark Claremont Anniversary

  • Sculptor Ernest Montenegro considers a model of his planned 53 foot tall sundial during a meeting at Canam in Claremont, N.H. Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Canam has partnered with Montenegro to fabricate the structure. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Sculptor Ernest Montenegro considers a model of his planned 53 foot tall sundial during a meeting at Canam in Claremont, N.H. Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Canam has partnered with Montenegro to fabricate the structure.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sculptor Ernest Montenegro traces his wife Donna's hand during an event at Canam in Claremont, N.H. Wednesday, March 5, 2014 to promote the building of a 53 foot tall sundial he designed. The steel structure will have a shell of cut-out hands traced by residents of the Claremont area. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Sculptor Ernest Montenegro traces his wife Donna's hand during an event at Canam in Claremont, N.H. Wednesday, March 5, 2014 to promote the building of a 53 foot tall sundial he designed. The steel structure will have a shell of cut-out hands traced by residents of the Claremont area.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sculptor Ernest Montenegro considers a model of his planned 53 foot tall sundial during a meeting at Canam in Claremont, N.H. Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Canam has partnered with Montenegro to fabricate the structure. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Sculptor Ernest Montenegro traces his wife Donna's hand during an event at Canam in Claremont, N.H. Wednesday, March 5, 2014 to promote the building of a 53 foot tall sundial he designed. The steel structure will have a shell of cut-out hands traced by residents of the Claremont area. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Claremont — Shortly before Christmas, Claremont sculptor Ernest Montenegro sketched an idea to create a permanent work of art as part of the city’s 250th anniversary celebration.

The committee overseeing the commemoration immediately embraced the idea — a steel skeleton covered with panels showing hand prints, meant to symbolize the generations of labor that helped establish and shape the community.

Originally planned for 20 feet in height, the sail-shaped sculpture will instead rise nearly three times that height — 17.64 yards, to coincide with 1764, the year the city was chartered.

Montenegro said after the interest from the celebration committee, he approached Structal Bridges on River Road to inquire about the cost for steel and fabrication to build the sculpture.

Instead of quoting a price, Structal offered to have the project done in its facility, supplying the steel and labor, and also suggested the larger size for the sculpture, which Montenegro has titled “ourhandsthenandnow.”

Montenegro said he was bowled over by the response from Structal management, including General Manager Carmine Macchiagodena and Marc Bernatchez, the company’s technical manager.

“One of the most important aspects came when Carmine and Marc agreed very early on to take on the whole project and provide the steel and fabrication,” Montenegro said Wednesday. “Without them it would have been a lot harder to make it happen.”

Standing before a model of the sculpture at the Structal offices Wednesday, Montenegro said the design was inspired by the lines of the pedestrian bridge across the Sugar River.

The steel hand cut-outs will be copied from paper tracings of residents’ hands and are meant to symbolize the workforce that built Claremont the last 250 years — from the farm hands in the early years to the mill workers that made Claremont into a manufacturing center.

Residents will have the opportunity to have one of their hands traced at a number of locations across the city in the coming months. About 200 tracings have been collected thus far and it is estimated about 1,000 will be needed for the piece, Bernatchez said.

When finished, the six-ton sculpture will sit on an eight-foot concrete pedestal on the North Street side of the foot bridge, below the city’s Visitors Center. It will be dedicated in the fall around the city’s official 250th anniversary on Oct. 26.

Explaining his vision for the sculpture, Montenegro said too often, with events like a community anniversary, a famous person is chosen and rendered in bronze.

“It is my feeling there are far too many of those in this country, so I wanted to avoid that and do some kind of tribute to the anonymity of the worker,” he said. “The hands represent the city’s past, present and future.

“This will garner a lot of interest in Claremont. It already has.”

Macchiagodena said he didn’t think twice about becoming a part of something so important to the city.

“We have done a lot here to the facility since 2007, and we want to be a good corporate citizen,” he said. “This is a good way to say thank you to the city. We are fascinated by structures like this, and this is a good cause.”

Macchiagodena and Bernatchez are contributing on the artistic side as well.

“Carmine and Marc are amazing people,” said Montenegro. “They keep coming up with more interesting aspects of the project.”

One example they suggested is to have lights, donated by Whelan Engineering, to shine from inside the sculpture so the hand cutouts will appear like stars, he said.

During the day, the sculpture will act like a sundial and Montenegro said Stevens High School students are involved in planning for that aspect of the project.

Bernatchez estimates Structal will invest thousands of hours into completing the project in time for the dedication.

“This will be eye-catching,” he said. “It will be a fun project.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com .