The 32-year-old sculpture at Opechee Park is named Keewakwa Abenaki Keenabeh, which translates to “Giant Indian – The Defiant One.” The log from which New Hampshire’s Whispering Giant is carved from is a native 36-foot red oak tree weighing approximately 24,000 pounds. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Rot, insects threaten 32-year-old sculpture at Opechee Park
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — At Opechee Park on Wednesday, there was a clear backward lean to the 36-foot red oak sculpture of the face and headdress of a Native American man.
Rot and insects have damaged the 32-year-old work of art, called Keewakwa Abenaki Keenabeh, which translates to “Giant Indian – The Defiant One.”
A couple of exterior sections have fallen into disrepair, but the main problem is inside, where deterioration is causing the 12-ton piece of New Hampshire wood to lean back on interior supports. The city has put a fence behind the statue as a precaution to keep people away.
Kevin Dunleavy, Laconia's director of Recreation and Facilities, said contributions are being sought to make repairs. If nothing is done, it could eventually fall or have to be removed.
“The city of Laconia is seeking assistance from the greater Laconia and state of New Hampshire community,” he said.
“The sculpture has been plagued by interior decay through the years and repairs are necessary to keep this iconic tribute standing for many more years.”
Peter Wolf Toth, the artist who created the sculpture, has volunteered to supervise repairs, which would include hollowing out the back of the statue, installing more interior supports and replacing rotten material with wood-colored fiberglass.
He has done similar statues in every state as part of his “Whispering Giants” series, and has had to make such repairs elsewhere.
Toth fled his native Hungary as a child. He has said he views his art work as a gift to America in return for the gift of freedom he received from this country. A sculpture he created in Hawaii in 1988 allowed him to complete his goal of placing one in each of the 50 states.
Dunleavy said repair costs and related expenses are projected at $7,000. The city is also seeking donations in the form of fiberglass work, scaffolding, boom lifts and other miscellaneous supplies.
To help out, contributions can be made out to the City of Laconia and either dropped off at the Laconia Community Center or mailed to Laconia Parks and Recreation, Native American Sculpture Fundraiser, 306 Union Avenue, Laconia, NH 03246.
The statue at Opechee Park is clearly leaning back too far, so the city has put a fence around it to keep people away until it can be repaired. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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