Under the Sea: Harbor Park Sculpture Celebrates Marine Life

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ELLSWORTH — “I love exploring all kinds of art and just getting started,” says Grace Young, 23. The young artist along with her grandfather, Ken Minier, designed and built the “From the Sea” sculpture installed earlier this summer at Ellsworth Harbor Park and Marina.

The colorful and towering structure – like a sea totem representing various sea creatures – went through a two-year process of planning, sculpting, building, painting and building. Grace’s vision began to take shape as soon as she saw the notice from the town of Ellsworth calling for sculpture design proposals. The city had won a $5,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation to fund the winning project.

Ellsworth resident Glenn McAndrews, who keeps his boat moored in Ellsworth Harbour, originally designed the public art to conceal the unsightly fuel tank vent pipes. “Funny how fate works, because that’s exactly what we needed,” smiles Glenn, pointing to the grandfather-granddaughter duo and their creation.

The Harbor Commission ultimately chose Young’s design showcasing marine life, from periwinkles to whales.

“I thought it would be super amazing to not only get my art out there, but also to work with my grandpa, it was so awesome,” Grace said. In turn, Ken, who made small carved sculptures in his day, helped Grace design the large wooden sea creatures that fit together like puzzle pieces.

Young, who creates jewelry and other small works through Grace Young Art Company, said the sculpture was “a whole new thing for me.” Between his design skills and his grandfather’s sculpting and building experience, the two made a good team.

“Then he [Ken] said, ‘OK, you’re in charge of the painting,’” laughed Young, who doesn’t consider himself a painter, but has created detailed colorful designs on each of the large wooden animals. She used exterior paint and varnish to make sure the vibrancy will last. The pair then took the parts to The Hinckley Co. to be sprayed with a weatherproof coating suitable for boats.

To protect the sculpture, the piece will be removed before the first snowfall and reassembled in the spring.

Minier, who served as the town manager of Southwest Harbor for 16 years, and Young, who grew up in the town of MDI, were two of the most local artists to submit designs.

The title of the play, “From the Sea”, which Grace’s grandmother, Pat Young, coined, is appropriate in the sense that Ellsworth’s harbor and marina serve as a gateway to land for fishermen, oyster farmers and adventurers. Grace described the park as Ellsworth’s “hidden gem”.

“I learned through this project what a community space it is,” said the artist. The park has two lookouts, a variety of wheelchair accessible picnic tables, harbor docks, a small snack bar, and the harbor commissioner’s office.

Mike Slater, Ellsworth’s Deputy Harbor Master, provided support throughout the process. Lisa Sekulich, Ellsworth’s director of public works, says it took multiple parties working together to ensure the Harbor Commission, Ellsworth town officials and artists were happy with the final product.

“At the end, we really shuffled our feet,” Ken said, recalling how their whole family turned out to help finish and load the big chunks onto a truck. The deadline for the sculpture had been extended to accommodate the artists.

In a nod to her grandfather, Grace says, “Something I definitely got from him was perfectionism. It would have been a few months less if we had been less picky.

When asked if they would consider another project like this in the future, the idea seemed a little daunting. Upon reflection, Ken replied, “If she came to me and asked me to do another one, I would just do it because I love my granddaughter.”

“From the Sea” can be viewed through late fall at Ellsworth Harbor Park and Marina is located at 413 Water St. in Ellsworth.

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