Mermaid to adorn Eastport harbor walk

Posted July 22, 2015, at 5 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — It has been five years in the making, but the city will be getting its mermaid statue on Aug. 1.

The mermaid, a work of bronze by Eastport artist Richard Klyver, will belong to the city and be installed along the sea walk, Klyver said recently.

“My job now is to get everything ready and get the piece installed,” he said. He has spent the past several weeks working on the tail of the mermaid and said a few spot welds were needed to finish her off.

“I’d like to get [the statue] in place two or three days before the unveiling,” he said, indicating he is aiming for July 29 or 30 for the installation.

Klyver started several years ago with the idea of making several bronze statues of sea creatures to be displayed publicly but could not get enough financing. Then about five years ago he was contacted by Edie and Hugh Stubbins, summer residents of Pembroke, and Sarah and George Kurzon, summer residents of Eastport, who said they would finance the project if he sculpted a statue like the iconic “Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen, Denmark, which has drawn millions of admirers since 1913.

“There’s a huge amount of work in producing a bronze,” said Klyver, who in 2012 said he thought it would be done before winter.

Klyver doesn’t weld, so he had to accommodate the schedules of those who did the welding for him, he said.

Then one mold broke during the casting process, and he had to start over.

“I can only cast in warm weather,” he said, explaining his studio is outdoors.

“If Rodin took 20 years to do the ‘ The Gates of Hell,’ I can take a little more time to do mine,” he quipped.

Klyver also encountered some controversy over the anatomically correct top of the mermaid when he approached the Eastport City Council for approval of his concept design in 2010.

“One of the councilmen accused me of peddling porn,” Klyver said.

According to minutes of the Nov. 8, 2010, Eastport council meeting, however, Klyver said his vision of the mermaid did not include covering the breasts. He referenced other topless mermaid sculptures in museums and at other sites around the world, including the one in Copenhagen and one at the Smithsonian, which he considered acceptable forms of art.

The councilors ended up voting 3-1 to move ahead with the project as designed.

Last week, Klyver said he wasn’t exactly sure when his sculpture would be installed, only that it would be ready by Aug. 1 for a dedication and day of activities being planned around the mermaid.

“I thought it would be nice to get something going downtown here,” Lisa Stephen, owner of Sweeties Downeast candy store in Eastport, said. She organized the day of activities, being called “Bay Day,” which begins at 10 a.m. with the dedication of the statue.

“It’s all about celebrating the mermaid,” she said.

The mermaid does not have a name yet, but local school children are expected to participate in a naming contest this fall, according to Klyver. His benefactors — the Kurzons and Stubbinses — will be the judges.

One of the scheduled speakers on Bay Day will be Denmark native Philip Jepsen, owner of the website mermaidsofearth.com, which lists the location of mermaid statues worldwide.

“I think mermaid statues tend to bring a sense of grace and beauty, myths and legends, mystery and fairy tales, plus, of course, art and aesthetics,” Jepsen said via email. “And they help boost tourism.”

He said the famous “Little Mermaid” statue in Copenhagen has become a well-known symbol of the city and all of Denmark. A total of 12 replicas exist around the world, including six in the United States.

When Jepsen encountered one of the copies in Iowa, he began documenting mermaid statues as public art in nearly 200 locations in more than 30 countries.

Klyver’s statue will be included in a book Jepsen is doing on mermaid statues around the world.

“Mr. Klyver is a very talented artist with great attention to detail, and I very much look forward to seeing his mermaid sculpture,” Jepsen said.

After the dedication, there will be two performances of a puppet show called “Tails of Quoddy Bay.” With performances set for 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the story involves a mermaid who gets caught in a lobster trap and then is brought to Eastport, where she has other adventures, Stephen said. The characters are played by adults, and an original musical score accompanies the story.

“They’ve been practicing furiously, so it should be a very professionally done puppet show,” Stephen said.

Children’s activities, sponsored by Eastern Plumbing and Heating, are scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. These include Little Miss Mermaid and Mr. Merman contests and a parade, she said.

Toilet bowl and bucket races also are planned. Participants can enter anything on four castors. Participants have to sit in the contraption and navigate the course with a plunger. The winner will be awarded a golden plunger, Stephen said.

Happy hour is set for 3 to 5 p.m., during which time Fiddle Chick and Picky — Denise and John McCurdy — will perform some of the original music from the puppet show. Tickets will be sold for beer and wine.

Eastport has been showing movies at sunset on Friday nights, but for this event, the movie “Splash” has been moved to Saturday night.

Between happy hour and the movie, Stephen hopes people will take advantage of the offerings of Eastport merchants.

“We’re hoping that people will frequent restaurants and have dinner. All the restaurants will have specials,” Stephen said. “Everybody will be open late for shopping that night.”

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