WARREN — The public can get a glimpse on Father’s Day of a six-year-old sculpture, a work of art that will pay homage to the crew of the ill-fated freighter El Faro.
Jay Sawyer said the metal sculpture – El Faro Salute! – comes from deep within him.
“It comes straight from my belly,” said Sawyer, a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. “It really shook me up.”
Five of the 33 crew members lost – when the El Faro sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015 – were Maine Maritime Academy graduates. Two were Rockland residents – 34-year-old second mate Danielle Randolph and 23-year-old third assistant engineer Dylan Meklin.
Sawyer was an engineer working on merchant marine vessels from 1985 to 1995. He said his intention from the start of his Maine Maritime enrollment was to go to sea, earn income, and then return home. and follow his passions. One of those passions he eventually found was creating sculptures.
He took a basic welding course and then did some welding work while serving on Exxon ships. This skill came in handy with his carvings. His first art exhibition was presented in 2007.
The 60-year-old Warren man’s most significant work to date is ‘Riding the Rails’, located above Sandy Beach in the South Rockland neighborhood. He said the location overlooking Rockland Harbor next to a train track was the perfect spot for this sculpture.
He said Rockland is also the right place for the El Faro Salute!
“Given Rockland’s maritime history, the fact that two crew members were from Rockland, and Rockland is the arts capital of Maine, this was the right place,” Sawyer said.
He said that after the El Faro tragedy he came up with a great concept to honor the crew and has since distilled it so he can wrap his arms around the project. Hello El Faro! consists of different types of steel. The transom is three-quarter inch Cor-Ten steel. This steel will show some rust but will then develop a skin that will prevent further rust. Both uniforms are made of one-eighth-inch steel.
Over a ton of steel is used on the sculpture.
Hello El Faro! is scheduled for an official groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, September 24 at the nearby Dragon Products property where Riding the Rails is on display. But the public can get a glimpse of the progress made so far on the El Faro sculpture.
A special open house is planned for Maine Maritime Academy alumni and friends on Saturday, June 18 with the General Public Open House at Sawyer’s on Sunday, June 19 from noon to 4 p.m. His studio and property are located at 131 Camden Road (Route 90) in Warren.
MMA alumni have contributed financially to support the ongoing work. He raised $100,000 of the $135,000 budget for the El Faro Salute! He said the public can contribute to help maintain the sculpture. The Penobscot Maritime Museum at Searsport is the financial agent for the project.
“I think the community will be proud of it,” he said, noting that the maritime memorials will attract people from all over the world.
The freighter had departed Jacksonville, Fla., on that 2015 trip, and many families were nearby.
Mix of housing, business and green space proposed for RES site