Three artists — all with local ties — are advancing to next phase of Gloucester's Commemorative Medal Design Competition.
Gloucester Celebration Corporation, the official organizers of Gloucester’s 400th anniversary celebration, on Wednesday announced the three finalists in Phase I of the contest competition. The finalists, chosen by judges Tuesday, are:
Alexis Chipperini of Brighton for “Call of the Storm.”
Beth Swan of Gloucester for “Out at Sea.”
Shannon Wilkins of Portland, Maine, for “Gloucester: America's Oldest Seaport.”
Chipperini, who grew up in Gloucester, graduated from Gloucester High in 2013 and still calls the city home, said her goal was to recognize residents' determination and strength in building the city’s rich 400-year history and propelling it forward. The front of the medal depicts a commercial fishing vessel cutting through storm-driven waves, while the reverse evokes a storm through crashing waves, a bell buoy buffeted by high seas, and wind-tossed gulls. Entering the contest "felt right," she said.
Swan depicted Gloucester from the harbor — like a ship returning home — its historic, landmark buildings and a modern-day wind turbine showing its sturdy origins and reflecting progress and the future. A codfish swims beneath the waves as a reminder of the ocean’s contribution to Gloucester’s economy. The reverse is dominated by Gloucester’s iconic ‘Man at the Wheel’ shown against a rising sun symbolizing hope and optimism.
Swan said her design began as an illustration inspired by her family's life in Gloucester long before she knew about the competition. “One of our favorite activities it to visit Stage Fort Park to play on the playground, walk along the boulevard among the flowers, watch the Cut bridge go up and down, and end up on Main Street for treats,” she said.
That “Out at Sea” could represent Gloucester’s 400th for generations to come left her happily surprised and honored, she said.
Wilkins, who grew up in Gloucester, said her goal was to connect people with the families, places, and history that built the city and will sustain it through the next 400 years. It represents things that come to mind when she thinks of Gloucester. The front of her medalis dominated by an image of ‘Man at the Wheel’ as a gull soars overhead. The reverse evokes the breathtaking sight of a whale preparing to sound, with the Annisquam Lighthouse in the background representing home and safety.
“Lighthouses, ships, and whale sightings are not just part of nautical romanticism here, they’re part of everyday life and the lives that came before us, ” Wilkins said in a prepared statement. "It’s a home by the sea with a proud heritage. My father was raised in the Portuguese Hill neighborhood of Gloucester. His mother was a strong, self-sufficient, hardworking woman who took her five children to Our Lady of Good Voyage Church every Sunday and knew the struggles of being a fisherman’s wife.
"My family’s story is similar to many who lived, left, came back, raised families, and continued to love this place they call home,” Wilkins said.
Their designs were selected from over three dozen received from artists worldwide. Each will receive the $3,000 award for Phase I, and will move into Phase II of the competition.
“The sheer number of entries alone was challenging,” said local gallery Roger Armstrong, head of the judging panel, in a prepared statement. “And, I think I speak for the rest of the judges when I say how difficult it was to make our selection from so many thoughtfully-created designs. In the end analysis, we felt each of the three finalists honor something that is ‘uniquely Gloucester’ with exceptional clarity and creativity.”
The other judges were artist and teacher Joy Dai Buell, artist and gallery owner Janice Carragher Charles, artist and Cape Ann Museum curatorial staffer Leon Doucette, and sculptor Ken Hruby. They were not advised of names or addresses of any artists so that their review was based solely on the designs themselves and the artists’ descriptions of their designs.
“I would like to thank our panel of judges for how professionally and insightfully they reviewed every design submitted,” said Bruce Tobey, tri-chairperson of the Gloucester 400 steering committee. “I applaud both their hard work and the designs they selected.”
Phase II, medal availability
In Phase II, the final medal will be chosen by a second panel of judges from 3-dimensional renderings of each of the three finalists’ designs. The design selected to represent the city’s 400th anniversary as its commemorative medal will then be minted in bronze and silver versions for purchase by Gloucester residents, collectors, and numismatists worldwide. In addition, the final artist will receive an award of $10,000.
Medals will be available for pre-order in February 2020. The first minting of the 400th anniversary medallions will be available in the spring 2020. Proceeds from their sale will provide the chief source of funding for Gloucester’s 2023 celebrations and will provide residents with a memento of the quadricentennial.
The theme of the 2023 quadricentennial is "Gloucester: Our People, Our Stories." The medal is one part of the celebration being planned by the Gloucester 400 steering committee, which will hold its next public input session Nov. 16, 11 a.m., in City Hall, 9 Dale Ave. More than 10 committees with topics including community outreach, culture and the arts, and waterways are seeking help and insight. More information is available at www.gloucesterma400.org/sub-committees.
The latest information about Gloucester400’s many activities and opportunities may be found at www.gloucesterma400.org.