ROCKLAND, Maine — “Ridin’ the Rails to Rockland,” a sphere sculpture consisting of former railroad spikes, is symbolic of the city’s and artist’s transition from blue collar to cultural, according to the sculpture’s creator.
The sculpture was unveiled at noon Thursday at the city-owned Sandy Beach Park on Rockland’s South End waterfront, along its harbor trail.
“‘Ridin’ the Rails’ symbolizes the train bringing tourists to Rockland and Rockland being promoted as an arts destination,” artist Jay Sawyer said.
He said it also demonstrates the significance the rail and industrial sector continues to play in Rockland and the region.
Sawyer is a Rockland native. He graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and served as a merchant mariner for about a decade before starting his own small business that became an outdoor sculpture gallery, Stemwinder Sculpture Works & Gardens, in Warren.
“Rockland and I have been on parallel paths of transitioning from blue collar to cultural,” Sawyer said.
More than 80 percent of the spikes used to create “Ridin’ the Rails to Rockland” were acquired over decades from around the state. Maine Eastern Railroad contributed enough spikes to complete the sphere and the material for the base as well, he said. The lengths of track used for the base were pulled up by the artist and a Maine Eastern Railroad employee from a section of abandoned track in Rockland. Dragon Products contributed the crushed limestone for the base and funds for a plaque.
Sawyer said Dragon’s and the railroad’s involvement were appropriate because he worked for both organizations and performed welding for the railroad when it rebuilt the lines running to Rockland.
The city agreed to have the art displayed at the park, which is located along the Rockland Harbor Trail. Louise MacLellan-Ruf, a member of the harbor commission, told the approximately 40 people who gathered at the park Thursday that Sawyer’s work would show visitors the beauty that is Rockland. She said the harbor trail has been worked on for more than 20 years and this artwork was a beautiful addition.
Rockland Mayor Will Clayton said while not everyone understands art, everyone should understand the hard work that Sawyer put into his piece.
Sawyer said he was honored to have his artwork displayed on public space in Rockland.
The mayor pointed out that on the northern end of Main Street, artwork will soon be displayed at the under-construction Ferry Terminal Park, overlooking the Maine State Ferry Terminal. That park is expected to be completed in about a month.
“We are focused on implementing components of the harbor trail and associated waterfront development plans, including the Harbor Trail and continued improvements to our Public Landing and Fish Pier. The offer by Jay demonstrates the city’s commitment to continued improvements to our open spaces and harbor assets,” City Manager James Smith stated in the news release.
Sawyer received help in unveiling the sculpture by his mentor, artist Marilyn Quint-Rose.
“I always knew he would do something wonderful,” she said.
Correction: The sculpture is made of railroad spikes not ties as was stated in an earlier version of the story. There are ties on the base of the sculpture.