Packing up posed some sizable problems for mathematician-sculptor Helaman Ferguson, who was facing eviction from his studio barn at the Maryland Science and Technology Center in Bowie.
Ferguson had a Jan. 1 deadline to move out, and he needed a way to transport two granite blocks, 11 and 13 tons; 24 pallets with additional pieces of stone, each weighing at least a ton; a security fence and yard lights; a computer-controlled milling machine; and about 8,000 pounds of tools, computers and other equipment.
Ferguson, who also works for the Institute for Defense Analyses at the Bowie office park, had been given use of the barn in return for creating a fountain sculpture, which is now located there in the middle of a reservoir. The sculpture's form is derived from an 800-year-old mathematical formula, and it was Ferguson's dream to complete a "mathematical theme park" with 14 more pieces around the lake.
Ferguson recently finished a piece for Merck, the pharmaceutical company, and is overdue on another commission, for Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.
But the landlord, MIE Properties, wants to develop the site. The company agreed to one extension of Ferguson's deadline in the fall but insisted that he be out by Jan. 1.
After word of Ferguson's situation spread, many hands turned out to help with the New Year's Eve move. "What do you do when 50 friends and neighbors and all kinds of people show up and want to help?" Ferguson said. "It worked. It's happened."
Ferguson has a good working relationship with the Springfield Rental Crane Corp., whose president, Randy Thompson, provided five flatbed trucks and free storage at the company's Springfield facility until the sculptor can relocate.
"We just got through unloading the last trailer," Thompson said yesterday afternoon, adding that Ferguson's stuff fills about 40 by 75 feet of storage space. "I've done a lot of work for him. He's a pretty good guy. He was in a pinch."
Ferguson has been offered a two-acre site elsewhere on the Bowie property, but he would have to build a studio from scratch. For the moment, he seems elated just to have the monstrous move behind him.
"The barn is totally empty now," he said in a telephone message to The Washington Post Tuesday night. I've mothballed my studio. . . . I have to tell you I feel like a free man."
by Helaman Ferguson is hoisted onto a truck. A detail, at left, shows the formula he used to create the sculpture.