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At the Heart of the Circle

Everyone has an opinion about the new sculpture at Westgate Circle

An unfinished sailboat. Maybe some bones? That’s what the neighbors of the new Westgate Circle sculpture guessed it to be. They’re not far off.
    The sculpture is five 18-foot-long curved wooden ribs lined up diagonally. It is supposed to represent a deteriorating sunken sailboat. Or the skeletal remains of a whale. It’s called Shoal.
    Shoal isn’t completed yet. Still to come are 20 crudely shaped forms representing fish or furled sails on 18-foot-high steel masts. The landscaping surrounding the sculpture will be informal and weathered. Sea grasses, climbing vines and flowering weeds complete the abandoned sense of the wreckage.
    Sculptor Robert Donovan of Clarksburg connects Annapolis’ past as a nautical port city to the universal intrigue of the sea as a life force. Donovan beat out two other concepts proposed by Maryland Hall artists.
    “We felt Donovan’s was the strongest of the three finalist,” said Tom Fridrich, chairman of the Art in the Public Places Commission that oversaw the selection. “It fit within the parameters of the criteria the best.”
    What do the neighbors think?
    “It’s not really completed. He ­hasn’t been able to landscape it yet, but I think its great,” said Sigrid Trumpy, director of exhibits at neighboring Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. “It should give the residence of Annapolis something to think about when they go around the circle.”
    Because dodging traffic in a two-lane circle isn’t enough to think about.
    Driving around the circle doesn’t give you time to appreciate and analyze the art. Gordon Harvey, who saw it for the first time on the drive in to town, couldn’t tell what it was. He says that something there is better than the nothingness that occupied the space before.
    Uncertainty is a common response at this stage. “People ask me all the time what it’s supposed to be, and I don’t know what to tell them,” said William Wilson, a Circulator driver who talks to visitors every day.
    Clarence Washington, longtime mailman for Spa Road, thinks it blends in with the community. “It’s nice,” he says. “It goes with all of the fancy buildings around it.”
    If it helps West Street businesses, then Katie Kelly at Varuna Salon and Spa, is all for it. “I think it’s kind of neat, actually,” she said. “The circle needed something there.”
    Varuna make-up stylist Brittany North agrees. “It gives a good first impression for visitors driving down West Street going to downtown. I think it’s cute.”
    Not everyone is sold on Shoal. Andy Kerner, a lawyer working down the street from the sculpture, isn’t sure what to make of it. “It’s, well … interesting,” he said. “I’m reserving my final opinion until the project is done.”
    “I expect it to be done soon, but I don’t know when soon is,” said Fridrich, who promises a ceremony for the finished project.