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Sculpture being created for Claremont's 250th anniversary

CLAREMONT — Major donors and contributing fabricators got their first glimpse Wednesday of the 53-foot-tall sculpture being built at Canam Structural Bridges to mark the city’s 250th anniversary.

National Field Representatives Inc., headquartered in Claremont, donated $25,000 to the project, said 250th Claremont Anniversary Committee Chairman Bill Carpenter. Deb Tardiff of NFR said, “It’s going to be a beautiful piece for Claremont, and I’m hoping it will be a draw for tourism, to bring more people into the town. The firm is proud to be a part of it.”

Nearly 30 business sponsors, including three banks, has contributed to the project. The sculpture will be installed on the Visitors Center Green.

Zeb Baird, Canam plant manager, said the sculpture is weeks away from being complete.

“It has been a very collaborative effort. There’s a lot of businesses here in Claremont that are contributing with help,” Baird said. “We’re donating the steel and a lot of the fabrication here. A lot of our people have donated their time to work on it.”

Jewell Specialized of River Road will transport the finished sculpture to the site, and Miller Construction of Vermont is donating cranes to erect the sculpture, Baird said.

Knowing the city’s 250th anniversary committee wanted a sculpture to commemorate the celebration this fall, Claremont sculptor Ernest Montenegro offered his talents and a design in January.

Montenegro drew inspiration for the sculpture, named “ourhandsthenandnow,” from the city’s manufacturing roots and because of that his design incorporates thousands of hand tracings from current residents. The tracings and the steel frame represent the workforce that built the city.

The theme struck a chord with residents and businesses who have rallied around the project. Montenegro estimated that to commission such a major piece would cost somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000.

About a thousand people donated hand tracings for the sculpture. Each traced hand has been cut out of steel with plasma cutters at the Thermacut Inc. plant in Claremont by Montenegro.

Montenegro said this is the largest sculpture he has ever made.

“It’s very exciting,” he said.

The sculpture will be lit from within, Montenegro said. “So at night all these hands will look like stars.”

The height of the sculpture is about 7.64 yards, representing the year Claremont was founded — 1764.

A lifelong sculptor, Montenegro is a 20-year resident of Claremont. Three years ago he created a large sculpture for Manchester called “Crosswalk,” which was installed by the Verizon Center.

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