Deborah Straszheim, New London Day
18 February 2016
GROTON — An art teacher wanted to create a “sub trail” as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first submarine to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base, and her idea has taken hold.
Teacher Joy Supples’ plan was to have local artists create a “fleet” of submarine sculptures, similar to the “Whale Tail” art project in New London a few years ago.
About a dozen sponsors have come forward so far, pledging to pay for 13 of 20 planned submarine sculptures that would be unveiled at the Groton Fourth of July parade.
The 5-foot-by-4-foot fiberglass sculptures, which have been ordered, would be decorated by local artists and ultimately displayed at sponsor locations across southeastern Connecticut.
A sub trail computer application would guide visitors to each sculpture and offer information about the sub, sponsor and artist.
Supples, a teacher at Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School, said she saw an opportunity to galvanize the community and celebrate the sub base’s history through art.
“It could give us a unified sense of place and really, a visual reminder to be proud,” she said.
Sponsors pay $5,000 per sub, and the project has secured $65,000 in sponsorships, with one donor sponsoring two subs. Organizers hope to secure the remaining sponsorships by Feb. 29.
The Mashantucket-Pequot and Mohegan tribes are among the sponsors, said Groton City Mayor Marian Galbraith.
Once all 20 sculptures have a sponsor, Connecticut's Submarine Century would call on artists to submit design ideas to decorate the subs.
Sponsors then would be matched with the winning artists.
“I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for businesses throughout the community to show their support for the submarine base and how that has impacted their own business and the quality of life here in southeastern Connecticut,” said Tricia Walsh, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce and a member of Connecticut's Submarine Century executive committee.
“It will just be a great asset to get people excited and moving around and talking about the history of submarines in Groton,” she said.
Galbraith said the sub trail offers another way to celebrate the region’s connection to the sub base.
Visitors will be able to use the app to find a sub, take their picture with it and share the photo via Connecticut's Submarine Century's Facebook page and the tag #submarineproud.
“It will really highlight and heighten in a really fun way that relationship,” Galbraith said.
Proceeds from the CT Sub Trail will go to the USS Groton Sail Foundation.
The group plans to take custody of the sail, upper rudder and other parts of the USS Groton, which was decommissioned in 1997 and was the third submarine named for Groton.
The “sail” of a submarine is the tower-like portion that protrudes from the hull at the center of the ship.