Visitors to the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor in August were greeted with a new sculpture, courtesy of local artist John Scarola. Titled “Breaching Whale,” the project was started in March and received its final coat of paint this week, just in time for an official dedication ceremony this weekend.
It all began with a thought … “Two Schools of Thought,’ actually.
Scarola has been creating with wood for decades, but when an opportunity came in 2009 to create a public art piece for The Suffolk Center on the Holocaust, Diversity and Human Understanding’s exhibit, Embracing Our Differences at The Long Island Museum, he jumped at the chance.
“I heard about the Embracing Our Differences exhibit and was interested in the assignment of creating a visual representation of equality. The idea for ‘Two Schools of Thought’ actually came from an episode of ‘Star Trek’ combined with midcentury wall decor in the form of wire fish,” explained Scarola. The piece went on to earn Best in Show.
When Embracing our Differences ended, “Two Schools of Thought” moved to its current location in Cold Spring Harbor’s Billy Joel Park, appropriately overlooking the harbor. Fast forward to 2017 and another opportunity came along, this time for an NYSCA Decentralization Grant, administered by the Huntington Arts Council.
Marc Courtade, Huntington Arts Council’s executive director, explained the process. “Huntington Arts Council is proud to administer the DEC grants for Nassau and Suffolk counties, helping to foster the arts in our communities. Only the projects with the highest artistic merit and community service receive funding. The grants not only validate the artistic merit for the recipients, but allow them to further explore their creative visions and enrich the cultural landscape of the Long Island community. The panel [thought] John’s project was innovative in the use of materials and that the scale would be attractive to the community.”
So how did the sculpture end up at The Whaling Museum? “I felt the museum was an obvious choice for my sculpture because I am passionate about environmental issues. The museum provides great programs in that direction. My goal is for the sculpture to provide visual impact to get passers-by to stop in and see all that the museum has to offer,” said Scarola.
After fine-tuning the plans for the 15-foot-tall sculpture, the artist began the installation at The Whaling Museum in August. Having grown up in the area and on the waters of the North Shore, Scarola is happy to have two of his sculptures book-ending the town of Cold Spring Harbor.
“Great public art fosters a pride of place and enhances a community’s identity. John’s sculpture indeed accomplishes that as this mammoth whale celebrates our Island’s deep ties with the sea,” said Whaling Museum Executive Director Nomi Dayan. “We are grateful to John and the Huntington Arts Council for enriching our space with this new focal point, a wonderful reflection of the exciting things going on in our museum building.”
“Breaching Whale” was officially dedicated to The Whaling Museum during its annual SeaFaire & Festival on Saturday, Sept. 29. Scarola was hand for the ceremony and set up his own “workshop” space offering demos of some simple wood-working techniques. He, along with other crafters, offered items for sale at this family-friendly event. The museum’s new exhibit, Heroines at the Helm, also officially opened on Sept. 29 with interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages.
The Whaling Museum & Education Center is located at 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor and specializes in the culture and history of local maritime heritage as illustrated by the Cold Spring Harbor whaling industry of the 1850s. Learn more by calling 631-367-3418 or by visiting www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.