THE WARYAS PARK WHALE
The Waryas Whale, a sculptural installation by artist Judy Sigunick, was dedicated in October of 2002,at the location of one of the two whaling companies in operation on the Poughkeepsie waterfront in the early 19th century. These businesses sent forth sailing ships to the distant seas, on years-long expeditions, to catch and kill whales, bringing the carcasses back to port, to harvest the oil for use in lamp-lighting. The sculpture commemorates this endangered species, as well as the local history of an industry described in such books as Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast and Melville’s Moby Dick.
After almost two decades of its presence at the south end of Waryas Park, the impact of the weather and seasonal changes, and of thousands of children playing on and around it, the Waryas Whale is now in need of maintenance and repair. A project has been started to evaluate the sculpture, driving toward a plan for renovation of this valued asset. The sculpture began as a community project, and we are now looking for community partners to help us bring it back to life, to educate the public about our rich history, and to allow future generations of children to play on it.
Watch this video by Dan Labbato created in 2002 documenting a bit of Poughkeepsie history, the history of sculptures in Waryas Park, and the creation of Judy's incredible whale sculpture.
Judy Sigunick was a Hudson Valley-based artist known for her paintings, ceramics, and sculptures.
Photo provided by Mary Flad
It represents the sperm whale, and the history of the "Whale Dock" in the 1830s from which ships traveled around the globe and brought back the these whales...mostly for the oil. The sculpture represents total length of the the Sperm whale (including spaces between) - which is up to 67'. If I'm remembering correctly, the Waryas Whale is about 62' from front to tale. I had anticipated landscaping (a ground cover that shimmers like water) between the 3 sections. Lack of funding prevented this and thus the total completion of my concept. Melville's, Moby Dick was also written nearby the Hudson, closer to Albany .
The Whale Sculpture was commissioned by the City of Poughkeepsie in 2001 and finished in 2002.
Photo provided by Mary Flad
Dedication led by Mayor Collette LaFuente, October 25, 2002
“The whole idea of this work is a collaboration (between) me and the community,” Sigunick said.
Sigunuck asked children in summer programs and local schools to design tiles that would be placed on the whale.
- Rob Seetoo
The whale today
After 20 years, the whale has degraded with tiles breaking off, masonry eroding, large cracks forming, and parts caving in. This has become a hazard for the children that often play on it and to those who may trip on the exposed anchors.
It reached this condition because it was not properly conserved, its hollow inside sits on dirt, and it is exposed to the riverfront weather conditions.
To be preserved, the sculpture would need to be restored and placed on a new foundation. The tiles would be removed and potentially reused in future dedicatory artwork. The commission hopes to add educational signs on environment and conservation to capture Judy Sigunick's intentions and sentiment behind the work.
Photos provided by Sean Hemmerle
More to come!
The focus group working on saving the whale includes artists, Arts Commission members, students, and the daughters of artist Judy Sigunick. We will update information here when the evaluation has completed.