Deteriorating Inlet Sculpture To Be Restored This Month

Deteriorating Inlet Sculpture To Be Restored This Month
Artist Peter Toth will visit the resort later this month to restore the Native American sculpture located near the entrance of the Ocean City Inlet. The sculpture, pictured above, was donated by Toth in 1976 as part of his art series, “Trail of the Whispering Giants.” Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The Native American sculpture, which has stood sentinel at the Inlet for over four decades, has fallen into disrepair in recent years, but the original artist is returning to Ocean City later this month to restore it.

Artist Peter Toth presented the Native American sculpture, perched near the entrance to the Inlet parking lot, to the town of Ocean City and the people of Maryland in 1976 as part of his larger plan to create a similar piece for every state in the U.S. as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration. Through his Trail of the Whispering Giants plan, Toth created a sculpture unique to each state to raise public awareness about the plight of Native Americans. His gift to Maryland represents the Assateague Indian.

The sculpture stands 20 feet tall and welcomes residents and visitors to Ocean City as one of the resort’s most iconic images. The sculpture as been in place at the Inlet since 1976 and has stood the test of time, tides and fierce weather over the last 45-plus years. Carved from a 100-year-old oak, it has gradually eroded to the point it needs a significant restoration.

Last year, it was learned local residents Becky and Larry Yates have been in contact with Toth, the original artist, about returning to Ocean City to restore his 45-year-old gift to Maryland at the Inlet. The Yates have been working in conjunction with the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) and Executive Director Glenn Irwin on the plan.

The concept was first pitched to the Ocean City Tourism Commission last year by the Yates, and there was strong support from commission members. This week, it was learned from the Yates that Toth will indeed return to Ocean City later this month to restore the sculpture. Toth is expected to be in the resort working on the sculpture from May 22 to May 26. He will travel from his studio in Florida to work to preserve the sculpture for at least another 45 years, according to Becky Yates.

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Toth will donate his labor, time and expertise during the restoration, but the Yates and OCDC are raising money to offset the cost of expenses while the artist is here, including lodging and meals, for example. Becky Yates will set up an area at the Art League of Ocean City’s First Friday reception this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to provide information about the sculpture and its upcoming restoration, and to help generate funds for the project.

In addition, those wanting to lend support can make a tax-deductible donation through OCDC by sending a check to Executive Director Glenn Irwin, OCDC, 108 Dorchester Street, Ocean City, Md. 21842. Donors are reminded to reference the Restoration Project of the Assateague Indian Statue.

The proposed repairs are not the first time the town has explored restoring the iconic sculpture. In 2013 after Hurricane Sandy, an examination of the sculpture revealed it was cracking and showing its age and plans came about to solicit bids for the needed repairs. A noted West Ocean City woodworker and carpenter came up with a plan to restore the Inlet Indian at a cost of just under $10,000.

The plan called for removing the sculpture with a crane and transporting it to a West Ocean City shop for a major repair and restoration, and then returning it to its original location. The idea got little traction when a funding source could not be identified and the restoration at that time fizzled.

Toth’s Trail of Whispering Giants includes sculptures in other neighboring beach resorts including Bethany Beach and Virginia Beach, for example. Some have been restored and in at least one case, a fiberglass mold now stands where the original sculpture was placed. Others have deteriorated and have been left to serve out their usefulness over time.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.