GLOUCESTER — One of Cape Ann's earliest urban legends is getting memorialized by nationally known Essex artist Chris Williams.
Cape Ann Museum will unveil a 9-foot-tall sculpture of the legendary Gloucester sea serpent this Saturday, July 20, at 3 p.m. It will be on display for all to see by the museum's courtyard and entrance.
The sculpture was commissioned in honor of Ronda Faloon, who retired in April after 13 years as the museum's director.
"It was a story and legacy that was of great interest to Ronda," said Oliver Barker, the museum's new director.
The first sighting of the sea serpent — swimming in Gloucester Harbor — was reported in 1817. The serpent made headlines in the Essex Register, Salem Gazette, and other local papers, occasionally appearing in newspapers and broadsheets as far away as South Carolina.
Two years ago, Faloon held series of program to commemorate the sighting's 200th anniversary.
"(The serpent) hasn't really received its due in story telling," Faloon said. "The Cape Ann Museum celebrates the stories in our area, and this one that deserves a bit more attention. It's magical and fun for all ages. I think having the sculpture right outside the museum will bring it more to the forefront."
Previous work by Williams include a bronze-and-glass seascape piece at Logan International Airport, a 20-foot tall neuron sculpture at Kendall Square in Cambridge, and a viking sculpture for Salem State University's athletics building. Currently, he's finishing up a "big dragon" for a convention center in Boston.
"He's a fantastic local artist," Barker said. Although Barker was not with the museum at the time Williams began working on the project in February, he stated "as a museum, we want to do more work with contemporary artists moving forward."
The project combines every sculpting medium Williams has learned to use over his career: bronze, granite and glass.
"Since this was going to be a local piece from a local guy, I wanted to give my best work," he said.
The completed work sees the bronze serpent rising from a granite block base, a reference to Rockport's granite industry and the many seawalls of Cape Ann. The blocks appear to be loosely placed next to one another, but are in fact forged together by custom-made glass. A handful of LED lights line the insides of the granite, which causes the glass caps in between to glow.
"This guy has a life of its own," Williams said. "As the project progressed, we added some features we thought would be exciting."
Funding for the project came from more that 120 museum and community members. According to Barker, the campaign raised "a substantial sum at six figures."
"Fortunately the community and membership really rallied," he continued.
Williams said he's pleased with his latest creation.
"I personally am so grateful to have the opportunity to bring this to fruition,"Williams said. "The community is so supportive of artwork ...everyone's on board with the growth of Cape Ann."
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Unveiling of the Gloucester sea serpent sculpture by Essex artist Chris Williams, commissioned in honor of retired Cape Ann Museum director Ronda Faloon.
When: Saturday, July 20, at 3 p.m.
Where: Courtyard at Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St. In Gloucester.
How much: The event is free.