While temperatures crept up to more than 95 degrees on Saturday afternoon, a sea serpent made a splash at its unveiling at Cape Ann Museum when the metal and glass sculpture found its permanent home at the museum entrance.
Essex artist Chris Williams created a 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture, which depicts the mythical sea serpent that dozens of Cape Ann residents reported seeing off the coast beginning in 1817.
The sculpture was commissioned in recognition of recently retired museum director Ronda Faloon and to honor her leadership of the museum during her 13-year tenure.
More than 120 museum and community members made donations to fund the project.
In William's design, the sea serpent rises from a granite block base, and glass fills the seams between the granite blocks, forming a glass mortar effect. The idea is to light the glass from within to illuminate the spaces between the granite blocks.
Oliver Barker, who succeeded Faloon as museum director, said this partnership between artist and museum continues the Cape Ann Museum’s longstanding commitment to collaborate with and exhibit the work of living artists today.
"The project is a wonderful tribute to Ronda but also is a real exciting statement regarding the museum's commitment and continued desire to celebrate Cape Ann art, both past and present," he said. "Chris is a wonderful individual and artist who created something special in Ronda's honor, and we had a wonderful group of people who braved the heat. It was very touching."
The seeds for this project began shortly after Faloon announced her retirement in January 2018.
According to her colleagues, the story of the Cape Ann sea serpent had always been one of her favorites as well as for visitors to the museum.
In 2017, the museum celebrated the 200th anniversary of the first sighting, rekindling everyone’s excitement, according to museum curator Martha Oaks.
Hence, the commission of the sea serpent sculpture.
"We hope that this contemporary work of art, conceived and created by an exceptionally talented local artist, will pay homage to Ronda as a wonderful leader of the Cape Ann Museum for many years," added Barker.
Williams has created many public works of art exhibited throughout New England, including an installation of a seascape at Logan International Airport; a 25-foot neuron cell, made of bronze and glass, in the bio-tech area of Cambridge in the area of Kendall Square; and a large sculpture for Salem State University of a viking, the college mascot.
Williams, who was among the crowd that gathered at the July 20 unveiling, said he was honored to be working with the Cape Ann Museum.
"I guess I wasn’t the only one excited about the Gloucester sea serpent's arrival. Honestly, I was crossing my fingers that the last six to eight months of work would be accepted. The people of Cape Ann are like family to me. It’s important to me that I do right by them."
Opening the ceremony was Charles Esdaile, president of the museum's board of directors, followed by board member Wilber James who spoke about the sculpture in context of Cape Ann's sculptural past as well as the present work taking place here today.
Arthur Ryan, a past board member and treasurer, added to the festivities when he read a poem he wrote about the commission process and an ode to Ronda Faloon.
Barker said the hope is to have more sculptural installations as the museum expands its scope into the 21st century.
"This is something we certainly want to do a lot more of and is one of the reasons we are building the new collections center," he said. "Once completed, we hope to open up the 3.7-acre site for the installation of sculptures."
That construction is taking place at the newly acquired Babson-Alling House property adjacent to the Washington Street rotary. The museum’s campus there is also home to the 1710 White-Ellery House.