LACONIA — Modern technology may be a savior of sorts for the huge sculpture in Opechee Park depicting an American Indian and called Keewakwa Abenaki Keenabeh, or "The Defiant One.”
Leaders of the Winnipesaukee Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League have pledged to replicate the 36-foot, 12-ton red oak piece, which is badly rotted.
City officials say it is beyond saving and want to remove it quickly before it falls over. They will cut it into segments and haul it away.
On Wednesday, it will undergo a laser scan to capture its exact dimensions and shape, down to the tiniest details. A 3D printer will then use that digital information to produce a new statue in pieces that can be assembled in the park and secured to the existing pedestal.
The work should cost about $15,000, said Muskrats team President Michael Smith. A total of $1,130 has been raised online at www.gofundme.com/native-american-statue-laconia-nh.
Smith said the team will cover any donation shortfall.
“I grew up in Laconia, and watched the original carving take place 35 years ago,” he said. “It impacted me as much as anyone else. So I decided it’s something we needed to see stay in the Lakes Region if we can.”
The new statue will be made out of a fiber filament that will hold up better than wood, Smith said.
“It will last for generations to come,” he said.
In recent years, 3D printing has come a long way and is now used to replicate archeological finds and important art works, Smith said.
He said the team regards the project as a way to thank the city for its support and to serve as an example of how the work of artist Peter Toth can be replicated elsewhere. Toth created wooden Native American sculptures in every state, and most have fallen into disrepair.
“The message of what he created as a tribute to native people and gave to Laconia should live on,” Smith said.
He contacted Toth and said the artist “is thrilled with the idea and is 100 percent behind it.”
Chris Fernandez, a Muskrats supporter who is an architectural and engineering consultant, has also been working on the project.
“These 3D printers have come a long way over the last decade,” he said. “Entire houses are being 3D printed.”
He said that, by printing the statue in 3-foot segments, two people could carry the pieces into place.
That’s important, because the statue is inside a running track, which could be damaged if heavy equipment had to be brought in.