LOWELL — The stainless steel, 16-foot-tall sculpture that rises above Utopian Park — based in the city’s developing Hamilton Canal Innovation District — is designed to celebrate Lowell’s history of water power, explains the landmark’s designer.

The sculpture, titled “Hydro,” is composed of its “solid gateway section,” inspired by the form of a turbine that Lincoln-based artist Nancy Selvage once viewed. The rest represents “water falling, and swirling, and flowing,” the sculptor said while standing alongside the towering art piece.

In its entirety, the project is designed to embody the energy created by water flowing through the turbines that generated power in the mills that once operated nearby the site, Selvage said.

Using Selvage’s vision and to-scale models, the art piece was built by Amaral Custom Fabrications, based in Rhode Island. The company has been involved with the construction of many other major sculptures throughout the world.

The unveiling of the Hydro, a public sculpture located within Utopian Park, took place on Tuesday. Taking part in the ribbon cutting were, from left, Cultural Organization of Lowell or COOL Co-Chair Patrick Cook; Parker Foundation President Newell Flather; Andy Jacobson, former COOL chair and owner of Brew’d Awakening; City Councilor Vesna Nuon; state Sen. Edward Kennedy; and Mayor William Samaras. AARON CURTIS/LOWELL SUN

Hydro sits on a 1-acre plot of land located at the convergence of the Hamilton and Pawtucket canals. The sculpture, which City Manager Eileen Donoghue describes as a “beacon” into Lowell, is easily visible to those driving inbound on Thorndike Street.

On Monday afternoon, several members of the community and those involved with the project’s development gathered at Utopian Park for an official unveiling of the art piece.

“Lowell is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, yet at the same time, keeping our rich past of our everyday present,” said state Sen. Edward Kennedy. “That spirit is evident in the development of nearly all of the city’s 5.2 million square feet that was once vacant mill space into housing, offices and commercial space.”

Sculptor Nancy Selvage of Lincoln, left, and fellow artist Nathalie Royston of Brookline, who’s been with the mulit-year project from the beginning, work on final steps of installation of Selvage’s sculpture “Hydro” in Utopian Park in Lowell. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

The mills, now fitted with modern amenities, retain “the character of the past, a reminder of what the city once was,” he added.

“The same can be said for Hydro,” Kennedy said. “A striking contemporary work that represents the energy of the hydro power that fueled the American Industrial Revolution and spawned Lowell.”

The sculpture’s development, set in motion by the nonprofit Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL), began in 2011. Selvage was one of eight artist who submitted a design to occupy the open space in Utopian Park. A public vote for the best piece resulted in Selvage’s artwork winning in a landslide.

“There’s nothing worse than a blank canvas, and there’s nothing better than an empty space,” Selvage said on Tuesday. “And I loved this big empty space here.”

View of 110 Canal St., through Nancy Selvage’s sculpture “Hydro” in Utopian Park in Lowell. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

With its completion last month, Hydro brings the number of public sculptures decorating Lowell to 14, according to Donoghue.

During Tuesday’s unveiling, multiple speakers referenced the time demands of the project. Rita Mercier, the chair of the City Council Parks and Recreation Subcommittee, said the length of time and demands of the project were akin to “the birth of a child.”

“But it took eight years instead of nine months,” Mercier said. “But it’s finally here and I’m happy.”

The project cost around $193,000, and was funded through grants from the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation, the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New England Foundation for the Arts, Lowell philanthropist Nancy Donahue and an anonymous donor.

“This sculpture is a testament of the city’s enduring commitment to the arts,” Donoghue said.

Selvage also designed Hydro to be interactive. The 16-feet high, 30-feet long and 25-feet wide art piece is designed to safely allow children to play on the stainless steel structure, she said.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis

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