The small shed behind Ernest Montenegro's Claremont, N.H., home is where his creations come to life. A model of his newest piece is helping to inspire the entire city.
"The response has been optimistic and it touched a nerve because I think Claremont has sort of taken a bad rap for a long time and it needs something to be proud of," Montenegro said.
Claremont was incorporated as a town 250 years ago. From May through October, a series of celebrations are planned, including the unveiling of a steel statue this model represents. The 40-foot tall sculpture will sit in a park next to the footbridge downtown. The project has support throughout the city.
"I mean it is obvious in the amount of people who have been willing to donate their expertise," Montenegro said.
Canam Steel Corp. is donating the steel, Thermacut is providing space and plasma cutting tools, and Whelen Engineering in nearby Charlestown will help illuminate the piece when it is complete.
"Not only to have a sculpture of his caliber here, but also to have the businesses kick in the way they have and to work with him, I think, is amazing," said David Lucier, a co-chair of the 250 Committee.
Tracings of hands from anyone who wants to take part will also be mounted to the frame. They represent a community coming together and the hardworking mill town Claremont has always been.
"This was a huge manufacturing center at one time and one that was pretty advanced for its day and it commemorates the history of that quite well," Lucier said.
"And I think that is will be something for them to be proud of and something that they will actually try to take care of," Montenegro said.
The piece will also act as a sundial, a permanent keeper of time fitting for a 250th birthday.
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