The sculpture of the polar bear family that sits in front of the library was designed and created by artist and sculptor Jim Sardonis. It was commissioned by the library Board of Trustees and presented as a gift to the town on Saturday, June 14, 2008. See pictures and read a speech that took place during the unveiling ceremony that day.
A public poll was conducted to choose names for the bears. The mother is named Aurora and the cubs are named Snowflake, Grace and Klondike.
The following statement was released prior to the arrival of the polar bear sculpture:
MHL Trustees to Give Polar Bear Sculpture
The Memorial Hall Library Board of Trustees is commissioning a sculpture of a polar bear family for the front of the Main Street property. This past January, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to support our gift to the town.
Over the library's 135-year history, Trustee funds—which are a privately managed endowment, established many years ago by private donors—have been used to purchase art, among other important items that are above and beyond the Library's annual operating budget. The Trustee funds were set up specifically to fund specific activities for the library's benefit and are not taxpayer-supported. The Trustees see providing access to art as part of a public library's mission, which includes the cultural enrichment of the communities they serve.
Trustee funds are restricted and cannot be spent for anything that is part of normal budgeted library operations—even in a time of budget tightening. Furthermore, monies raised by the MHL Friends of the Library are totally separate from Trustee funds and are not being used for this purchase.
The decision to purchase a significant sculpture for our Library, which is truly a jewel of downtown Andover, has been thoughtfully considered over many years.
The Trustees began the search for a sculpture more than six years ago in an effort to replace outdoor sculpture destroyed by weather. Long-time residents likely remember the "Bird Watchers," which stood on the second floor outdoor deck, and the "Open Book" sculpture affixed to the wall on the Essex Street side of the library. These damaged pieces were not repairable or replaceable, and the Trustees received an insurance settlement when they were deemed irreparably damaged. Thus, a combination of the insurance money and private Trustee funds are being used to pay for the new sculpture and its installation.
A committee consisting of Trustees and the library director, along with Addison Gallery Associate Director and Curator Susan Faxon, requested proposals and subsequently evaluated several artists and their work. Based on his skill, willingness to work closely with us and his affinity for animals and nature, we selected Jim Sardonis, who is based in Vermont but whose work has local, national and international prominence and can be seen on school and college campuses, as well as at public libraries, across the country.
Why a polar bear family?
Like many of Jim's sculptures, the subject matter of a mother polar bear and her cubs both depicts a scene from nature and is made from natural material; Jim is carving it from New England granite. Often the animals Jim creates and installs are not indigenous to the area where they are installed—for example, whales' tails waving from a Vermont hillside and a hippo lounging at the end of a New England lake. Their out-of-context presence attracts interest, elicits delight and prompts thought and discussion.
We particularly liked the idea of installing an endangered animal in Andover because we wanted it to become a launch pad for providing information about the environment, including special programming and a forum for discussion—again a mission of a public library. We expect our 2008 programming to be a means of raising awareness and to allow for discussion of a wide range of environmental topics and points of view.
The Trustees hope that people will come to appreciate the new sculpture. Its installation is our gift to the town of Andover.