A bronze man holding a king salmon now welcomes visitors to the Harbor History Museum, and so far has been a photo opportunity for old and young alike.
The 6-foot-5-inch statue, titled The Big Catch, weighs about 600 pounds. It took artist Doug Granum four years to complete.
“It’s taken a long time and it’s moved around a bit, but I think it’s found the perfect home,” Granum said.
It was installed at the Harbor History Museum on July 8. The museum was “ecstatic” to have the statue placed outside the front doors, spokeswoman Michelle Paulus said. The advantage is it’s easy to spot while walking or driving down Harborview Drive.
It’s been bringing in curious passersby for photos and up-close looks, Paulus said.
However, there is a slight catch to The Big Catch: It’s not a replica of a fisherman. The statue is based on a photo of a cannery worker by renowned Northwest photographer Asahel Curtis, taken in the early 1900s.
That doesn’t exactly sit well with Tom Morfee, a longtime Gig Harbor resident.
“It’s not an authentic statue related to the fishing community of Gig Harbor,” Morfee said. “It seems unusual, inappropriate to not honor the fishing community that goes back 100 years or so by not using a model of a Gig Harbor fisherman.”
Still, Morfee admits, credit is due to the museum because the statue attracts visitors and the artist’s heart seems to be in the right place.
Granum said in his experience as a fisherman — he fished to pay for college — the fishing industry can see people switch around jobs, sometimes being fishers and sometimes working the canneries.
Furthermore, he sees the trials and triumphs of the subject as a reflection of the fishing industry throughout the world, including Gig Harbor.
“It’s way more than just a bronze (statue). It really is the history of the community and many communities around the world,” he said. “It’s an iconic image.”
It all began for Granum over lunch with a friend at Katie Downs. Pointing to a photo on the wall of a fisherman, he asked Granum if he could make a bronze statue.
A fan of Curtis’ large breadth of work, Granum found the photo and began to sculpt it for casting. He imagines Curtis back in 1909, approaching the young man on the dock and asking him to hold up the massive salmon.
Granum clearly feels a strong connection with the man. That’s why he set aside the idea of placing him on a pedestal. The sculptor wanted the subject with feet on the concrete, just like the people viewing him.
“I constantly thought of this man ... as one of us,” Granum said of the process.
It took Granum back to his days in Alaska working on a fishing boat. With dreams of becoming a writer or artist, he talked to the members of his boat who asked if some day he might tell their story through his art.
To translate the two-dimensional photo into a 3-D sculpture, Granum drew on his experience to fill in unseen portions such as the back of the man’s boots.
He wanted a rough-hewn touch, so the outlines of Granum’s finger prints are visible. The life of the fishing industry isn’t smooth, so neither is the piece.
The statue is a community project that was funded by donations. The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation partnered in the work.
Thanks to the popularity of the photogenic bronze man, the museum is planning a social media campaign, Paulus said, encouraging visitors to use the hashtag #TheBigCatch to share their photos posing with piece.