Sculptor thanks first responders


October 17, 2019

Colorful stones, hand-collected from the Chilkat Valley, lay embedded into two large slabs weighing about 600 pounds each. The stones are arranged to form fish; a halibut on one slab and a rockfish on the other. On the inside of the slabs, stones spell the following words: “SEARHC, Volunteers, Senior Center, First Responder, Guardian Flight, Alaska Heart Institute.” The artist, Sarah King, plans to secure the two slabs together like a book and place it in a public location to thank the groups that helped her.

Sarah King visited Haines for the first time in 2012. Like others, she fell in love with the natural beauty and sense of community. She soon began traveling between Haines and her home in Tasmania, Australia, where she studied as a sculpture artist with a focus on glass work.

The purpose of the sculpture is “to say ‘thank you’ to the first responders who saved my life,” said King.

‘’I have never done this before,” said King. “Challenging myself helped my recovery.”

In 2014, King underwent emergency open heart surgery for which she was airlifted from Haines with the help of first responders and all the institutions mentioned on the sculpture.

During her long slow recovery, King relied upon support from the Haines Senior Center and community members.

And she collected stones, which she said aided her recovery.

In 2016 King completed a headstone for Charles Ewing’s grave, the deceased son of her friend, Betty Ewing. The headstone is formed of collected stones arranged in the shape of a fish.

For the last three years, King directed her sculpture skills towards saying ‘thank you.’ She worked on a sculpture under the trees outside the Haines Senior Center.

Using tools from friends, King formed the slabs from cement, rebar, and stones. She estimates she spent 700 hours on the piece.

The sculpture remains unfinished. This week King will leave town to sail through the winter. Next spring she plans to return and finish the piece, which will include connecting the slabs and completing the fish covers.

“The two fishtails (will) come out away from the structure to give the impression they are jumping into the book cover,” said King.

King said she hopes that the community will decide where they would like to put the donated sculpture.

“I want people to talk about where they want it,” said King. She mentioned a few locations, including the field south of the bank and the clearing near Young Road and Second Avenue. However, she wants the community to pick a location.

King hopes that the public sculpture will lead to an annual celebration of first responders. She envisions it as a community-planned event, with live music and activities.

“I would like to see a few days put aside in celebration for the Volunteers and First Responders ...They are the silent few who are the angels in this world,” said King.

While the sculpture thanks the first responders, it is for everyone.

“I hope they (those who observe the sculpture) will feel a connection to the community and those who are volunteering, The challenge the future holds is not going to be easy. We are going to need more innovative ideas for a sustainable future to survive climate change with the need for emergency assistance.”

King also said she hopes to develop a system for sharing skills and donated tools, similar to a library. This is already happening in Australia, she said.

“It keeps folk off the street and gives a feeling of community, lending a hand with those jobs that never seem to get done,” said King.

King said she is happy to discuss these ideas when she returns in the spring.


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