Whale Done! Skidompha Atrium Welcomes a Denizen of the Deep – The Lincoln County News

September 16, 2022 by No Comments

A 20-foot white whale floats above the first floor of the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta on Sunday, Sept. 11. The sculpture is crafted from wood, PVC pipe, and nonwoven cloth, and lit from within by strips of miniature LED lights. (Bisi Cameron Yee photo)

A young albino humpback whale floats calmly, its large brown eye rolled slightly upward to see the world above. Long ventral grooves travel from its mouth to its belly, and a unique skeletal structure seems to capture the very shape of the waves that would surround it in its natural environment.

However, this whale is not in its natural environment. It is suspended in air in the atrium of the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta.

Named Migaloo after the only albino whale known to exist in the 20th century, the three-dimensional, 20-foot-long sculpture of wood, PVC pipe, and nonwoven fabric was installed at the library by a small team of staff and volunteers on Sunday, Sept. 11.

Children’s Librarian Jessie Trafton had long wanted to utilize the atrium space for an art installation. Trafton, who holds a degree in marine biology, was in favor of something inspired by the sea. “I’ve always thought we needed a whale hanging from the ceiling,” she said.

After batting ideas around with artist and library volunteer Erica Qualey, she brought a proposal to Skidompha Executive Director Matthew Graff and applied for a grant to fund the project.

The whale was designed by Qualey, who is better known as a watercolor artist although she has also created any number of small three-dimensional sculptures. While this is the largest sculpture she has built, Qualey has been involved with other large-scale projects and has a background in industrial design.

Qualey built the whale with the help of talented puppet and marionette crafter Melissa Glendinning.

“She has a magic about her,” Qualey said of Glendinning’s work, which has included a 14-foot dragon marionette that required multiple people to operate.

Qualey has often brought her artistic and teaching skills to the library’s patrons. She worked with Trafton to conceive and create the “Oceans of Possibilities” community mural that currently hangs from the library’s exterior facade.

Graff described Qualey as “one of the best partners this library has ever had and a delight to work with. And as you can see enormously talented.”

The design process for the sculpture took about a month. The build, according to Qualey, took another month.

Graf said “Project Cetacean,” as it became known, was kept a surprise because they were unsure of how the installation would go. This was the library’s first attempt at suspending a 3D sculpture of such size.

There were a number of challenges to be overcome, the most obvious one being the height of the atrium ceiling and getting the whale lifted to its final position.

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The installation crew used a two-story tall ladder to thread guide wires through carabineer style hooks attached to posts on the second floor. Wires were run through a section of translucent hose and attached to six contact points along the spine of the sculpture.

Completing and installing the sculpture took approximately seven hours, between connecting the three sections, placing and testing the lighting system, gluing the final bits of fabric into place, and engineering the positioning of the guide wires and …….

Source: https://lcnme.com/currentnews/whale-done-skidompha-atrium-welcomes-a-denizen-of-the-deep/

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