News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 26, 2018
Brooklin Boat Yard builds Sandy Hook memorial


Brooklin Boat Yard project manager Eric Blake discusses dimensions with sculptor designer Rich Duca.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Boatyards are not just for building boats. A sculpture constructed at Brooklin Boat Yard will be installed this month at Southern Connecticut State University, as the centerpiece in the Reflection Garden commemorating lives lost in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The sculpture is designed by Massachusetts artists Rich Duca and Meredith Bergmann, both recreational sailors. Duca asked whether the local boatyard would be interested in the project because of its reputation for quality, he said.

“We feel lucky they’re doing this,” he said.

The need to create the sculpture indoors came from a requirement that it contain no metal because of the symbolism with the event behind the garden. “How can you build a wooden sculpture outside in the winter?” Duca said.

For Brooklin Boat Yard project manager Eric Blake, taking on the project was a simple decision.

“It’s a little unusual,” he said. “But we like to tell people we build twisted objects out of wood. Boats just happen to be the majority of our work.”

Like vessels, the sculpture would be continuously exposed to sun, wind and rain. Constructed from Atlantic cedar, the same modern techniques used to protect the wood on boats would be used for the sculpture.

Duca came into the project with a carved wooden model, after discussions with everyone involved, he said. From there, the boatyard created a CAD model. When finished, the sculpture will rest on four pedestals and have four circles of fiber-optic lighting inside, representing the four teachers killed during the school shooting.

“A lot of what we do is function follow[ing] form,” Blake said. “People come with an aesthetic in mind. We talk through the building techniques. There’s a lot of different layers of craft to draw from.”

As for constructing the sculpture, Blake said, “I believe and instill in the guys, we can make anything, [whether] metal, wood, etc.”

Different boat builders bring different expertise, whether in form, lighting, wood working. “One of the best things about working here is we’re problem solving,” crew member Rick Chamberlain said. Blake said, “This is not different.” For the boatyard crew, the sculpture is a project like any other—but not completely.

“It was a horrific event and it’s nice to be part of something positive from that,” builder and Brooklin resident Todd Skoog said.

The sculpture is set to be delivered on April 19. “I think everyone’s enjoying this and honored to work on it,” Duca said.

Sculpture and crew

The sculpture at two weeks before delivery date with, from left, Brooklin Boat Yard crew Todd Skoog, Eric Blake and Rick Chamberlin, and artists Rich Duca and Meredith Bergmann.

Photo by Anne Berleant

Brooklin Boat Yard project manager Eric Blake discusses dimensions with sculptor designer Rich Duca.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Artist Meredith Bergmann

Artist Meredith Bergmann is on site at the Brooklin Bot Yard during construction of the memorial sculpture.

Photo by Anne Berleant