AUGUSTA — The project to bring 25 fiberglass sturgeon to downtown Augusta by summer is taking shape, even as details of where they are to be installed are being worked out.

Michael Hurley debuted the first sturgeon Thursday that has been created for the project. The fish statue was unveiled at the office of the Augusta Downtown Alliance as part of the effort to scout out locations for the art.

Hurley’s company, Fiberglass Farm of Belfast, is producing the fish and is working to meet a schedule that is targeting mid-June for installation of the final pieces.

“Most people do not appreciate how popular this will be,” Hurley said. “These things have been done in many, many towns. The reason they are done is that they are really popular and really successful, and I think Augusta is really lucky to be doing it.”

To get there requires following a timeline that has already begun.

Michael Hurley, owner of Fiberglass Farm of Belfast, snaps a photograph Thursday of one of 25 sturgeon statues his company is making for the Augusta Downtown Alliance’s public art program. This fish is at Market Square. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

On Feb. 8, the Augusta Downtown Alliance issued a call for entry to artists and organizations to submit their qualifications and ideas for painting the sturgeon. The deadline is March 8, and decisions are expected to be announced two weeks later. Artists will be given a $250 stipend for the cost of materials.


Five have been submitted so far, according to Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance.

At the same time, the fabrication of the fish is underway.

The model sturgeon, from which a mold for the other fish will be made, was completed by Fairfield artist Jen Dubord in mid-February.

Hurley said the fish are to be assembled from panels made of blown fiberglass that will be bonded together, with mounting steel inserted. A decision is expected over the next few weeks on how the fish are to be mounted.

The artists will be able to pick up the sturgeon in May and then have about six weeks to complete them. Once the fish are returned, they are to be installed on concrete bases throughout downtown Augusta.

Hall said a map is planned to identify the location of the sturgeon sculptures.


“The goal will be that you could go from one to the next to the next,” Hall said. “I do have a general orientation that I would like them to go, which is south to north. That’s how the sturgeon jump in the Kennebec.”

Michael Hurley, owner of Fiberglass Farm of Belfast, carries one of 25 sturgeon statues Thursday his company is making for the Augusta Downtown Alliance’s public art program. Hurley and the faux sturgeon are at Market Square. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The fiberglass public art installations debuted in the United States in 1999 with “Cows on Parade,” when 300 life-size, decorated cows were set up throughout Chicago before they were auctioned off to raise money for charity.

“That was the first time anyone ever did it,” Hurley said. “There has never, ever, ever been a more successful program that unites business and the arts. Just nothing else has ever hit it as perfectly.”

An estimated 800,000 people came to see the cows, Hurley said, and on average spent $200 apiece, bringing an economic boost.

The program has been repeated in other cities with locally iconic items or animals: Cleveland, Nashville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas, had guitars; Buffalo, New York, had buffaloes; Cincinnati had pigs; and Cheyenne, Wyoming, had cowboy boots.

Hurley’s company has not done them all, but it did create, among scores of others, the bears in Belfast, cod in Baltimore and light bulbs for West Orange, New Jersey, home of the Thomas Edison Laboratory Complex.


The Fiberglass Farm has also made World Series ring sculptures that are 4-feet tall and have been installed outside Polar Park, the home of the Worcester Red Sox in Massachusetts, and most recently bobblehead statues, including five for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The sturgeon project has been made possible through a placemaking grant T-Mobile has awarded to Augusta and two dozen communities across the nation.

Working with Main Street America and Smart Growth America, two organizations focused on building strong and prosperous small communities, T-Mobile has awarded the 25 grants in this round of funding. The company has committed $25 million to community development projects over the next five years.

In other communities, the art has been auctioned off to raise money for charity.

The sturgeon are expected to be on display for two years. They are then to be auctioned off, with the proceeds dedicated to future art projects in downtown Augusta.

If the sale price is $1,000 or higher, $500 will go to the artist, less any expenses or materials received.

As for how long they will last, Hurley said, “I guarantee you we’ll all be dead and gone and these will be in fine shape.”

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