Hampton Beach Sculpture by the Sea
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Written by Deb McGrath
Hampton_Memorial00For one week each summer the granite sculpture of the lady looks on as a group of talented sculptors express themselves by creating works of art in the sand of Hampton Beach. Her larger than life-sized image is dedicated to New Hampshire sons and daughters who lost their lives at sea in defense of our country. (Article continued below)  

While observing the artists at work I spoke with Gregory Grady, the organizer of this event and an accomplished artist. The idea for a Master Sand Sculpting Competition began in 2000, Grady says, when he was asked to reproduce in sand the tail side of the New Hampshire quarter. In 2001 he and his buddies began the first Solo Master Sand Sculpting event in New England. It remains among the best-loved events on Hampton Beach.

Grady believes it is this five-star rated beach on the Atlantic Coast that draws master sculptors from around the world. But the biggest draw may be Grady himself. He and hundreds of volunteers make this annual event possible. After a few weeks, these ephemeral works of art will become a pile of sand once again.

"It’s a summer time tradition," Grady says. "And, my dear, it is job security."

In all the times I visited the sand sculpture contest I never really noticed the Marine Memorial. But meeting Gregory Grady a few years ago made me curious about the woman who designed the permanent Hampton Beach memorial. Looking closely, I was surprised by both the softness of the woman’s features and soothed by the words engraved on its base.

The pasage reas: "Breathe soft, ye winds, Ye waves in silence rest."

The inscription is from the poem "An Epistle to a Lady" written by John Gay in 1714. Memorial designer Alice E. Cosgrove wanted the statue to reflect the feeling of a woman who "reverently lays a wreath upon the soft waters which embraces those who have lost their lives at sea. As she looks across the waters, she asks that the winds and waves be gentle, as a mother who covers her sleeping child at night." For me, her goal was realized. "The Lady" was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1957.

Alice Cosgrove was a native of New Hampshire. She was trained as an artist at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and employed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. The WPA was created during the Great Depression in 1935 to support talented people. Cosgrove was a prolific artist for the state of New Hampshire until her retirement. Her best-known work can still be seen on the inspection stickers on all NH car windshields. Cosgrove also created "Chippa Granite", a cute little cartoon guy on skis used on advertisements promoting tourism and winter sports in New Hampshire.

Accaording to those who knew Alice Cosgrove, she had an engaging smile and a charming personality. But despite her increasing fame as an artist, Cosgrove always remained accessible to those who stopped by her office. She considered NH "a wonderful place for an artist to live and work". Cosgrove died on December 7, 1971.

Article and photo © 2010 Deb McGrath.