GULFPORT -- "Sailor" will permanently stand watch at the southern entrance to downtown.
The elegant, stainless-steel sculpture of a female sailor with bronze oar in hand stands 8 feet high. She is mounted on a 4-foot brick pedestal.
The Mississippi Maritime Historical Foundation in 2015 leased seven sculptures placed throughout downtown. A smaller version of "Sailor" was so beautiful, foundation president John Harral said, the nonprofit organization commissioned a larger version from sculptor Jim Collins of Chattanooga, Tenn.
Collins was in town Monday to install "Sailor" on her pedestal.
"It's perfect for Gulfport," Collins said, looking up at his handiwork once he had bolted her into place. "It's a sailor. It's nautical."
Sailor faces U.S. 49 at its intersection with 13th Street, the first east-west road through downtown. It looks as though she can feel
the ocean breeze wafting from Gulfport harbor only two blocks to the south.
The foundation also is leasing a second sculpture for one year from Collins. "Cowboy Watcher," also a stainless-steel cutout, sits one block east of "Sailor," on an iron bench with room for company.
A third sculpture that was part of the original loan program, "Adrift II," by Oxford artist Durant Thompson, will sit for another year on 13th street near 27th Avenue. Mississippi Power is sponsoring the sculpture's second year in Gulfport.
The maritime foundation originally formed to build a maritime museum, but Hurricane Katrina decimated the museum's home -- the old Carnegie Library downtown, since sold to the city of Gulfport and renovated.
These days, Harral said, the foundation is focusing on public art installations.
"I don't know of any really great city that doesn't have an element of public art," Harral said.
The original seven sculptures were chosen through a juried process. The total cost for the sculptures was $30,000, which included mounting. Harral said the nonprofit foundation decided it might get more for its money by buying a sculpture. "Sailor" cost $8,000, plus $350 for the base.
He said, "We think it's going to be an iconic representation of the city of Gulfport."