Gautier dedicates new 'Nature's Playground' sculpture

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - It is the cornerstone of the new Town Center in the City of Gautier. A ceremony was held Friday morning to dedicate the 42 foot tall sculpture called "Nature's Playground."

Community leaders say the addition of this public art marks an important milestone for the city.

"May this work of art always be a reminder to us of our responsibility to care for the natural beauty of our coast and the creatures which call it home," the pastor prayed during the opening prayer at the dedication ceremony.

The sculpture "Nature's Playground" will long be a centerpiece in the City of Gautier. It is the cornerstone for the development of a town green and a revitalized retail center at the nearby Singing River Mall site.

"This has been 80 to 100 hours a week for the better part of a year to make sure this thing came together, increment by increment," said artist, Dean Mosher, who designed the artwork.

Mosher created the sculpture, but was quick to credit his talented team of artisans, engineers and craftsmen.

"A lot of pinging and panging with a ball peen hammer," said Travis Chauvin.

He and Ernest Hendrix are the coppersmiths whose skills with a hammer brought the shiny metal to life.

"Like on the alligator's skin and all that. That's sheets of copper. We cut it out. First we made a pattern. Then we cut the pattern out. And then we bing and put the texture of the skin into it," Chauvin explained.

"When I see the finished product? Accomplishment of a lifetime. Accomplishment of a lifetime. That's something to be proud of.  And the City of Gautier has something to be proud of," said Ernest Hendrix.

The group Gautier Pride was a driving force behind this public art project.

"It is unbelievable. You know, we told people, you will not be able to understand how great this thing is until you see it,"  said Billy Bray, the president of Gautier Pride.

"The news media can go out and proclaim it, they can declare it. It's the prettiest piece of art on the coast. Period," said a proud Mayor Tommy Fortenberry.

Artist Dean Mosher says ownership now belongs to this community.

"I hope it will represent to you what it should. Which is the symbol of hope and uplifting spirit and the best parts of what you can be," said Mosher.

Funding for the sculpture came from a $6 million Katrina grant from the Mississippi Development Authority. Along with the artwork, it also financed the two-lane traffic circle, pedestrian pathways, decorative lighting and landscaping. All are part of the city's plans to develop the Town Center project.

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