The Mountain Times

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Eight international sculptors showcase their talents

WEST RUTLAND - The West Rutland Art Park, a private art park open to the public, is currently hosting an International Sculpture Symposium with artists working on-site from Bulgaria, China, Turkey, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Germany and Romania. The symposium runs from Aug. 23 to Sept. 22.

This is a rare opportunity to engage globally renowned artists in dialogue and watch them work with local granite, marble and steel.
The event is open to the public at no charge, as well as interested school groups, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m Monday through Saturday.  The West Rutland Art Park is located at 1450 Clarendon Avenue, West Rutland, Vt.  For more info call 802-353-9650, or visit westrutlandartpark.com.

Photo by Yan Lu, West Rutland Art Park
Liliya Pobornikova, from Bulgaria, sculpts a large block of marble at the West Rutland Art Park's International Sculpture Symposium.



A Vermont treasure resurfaces
By Royal Barnard
Sculptfest is currently taking place at the newly initiated West Rutland Art Park through September. The event is a reminder of the vastly changed landscape in Vermont's mining, mineral and quarry trade - in addition to a renowned display of artistic sculptures.

There was a time was when local powerhouse industries like the Vermont Marble Company supported thousands of jobs in Proctor and West Rutland, and throughout the region; and at one time was considered the largest existing American corporation. Today, it is reduced to rather scattered scrap yards and a non-profit museum in Proctor struggling to stay alive and continue its historic displays.

The Carving Studio, also in West Rutland, resides in a former Vermont Marble Company work building, the site of the once vibrant marble complex and quarry. The Carving Studio is a non-profit entity whose mission is to promote the artistic use of marble and other native materials, through exhibitions and public classes.

Most of the Vermont marble once used for art and architecture is now finding its way to Omya's giant grinding plant in Florence, Vt., where the calcium carbonate they produce supplies makers of paint, paper, plastic, pharmaceuticals and other products with filler materials. Ground marble is also found in less likely places like toothpaste and food products.

Slate and talc are our other official "state rocks" and there continues to be significant commercial activity in mining them. Cyprus Industrial Minerals runs about 10 talc mines in Vermont, and there is still a viable slate trade in the area around Fair Haven and Poultney. Granite is another important Vermont stone and the world's largest producers, Rock of Ages, operates from the Barre, Vt. region.

One of the pioneer families in the Vermont quarry trade was the Ruby family from Fair Haven, and they are still around, albeit not nearly as busy as they once were. Their lessened activity is not from lack of resources in the ground, or the desire to get them out. The world's demand for their products, has decreased.

I spoke with Pete Ruby who labors in hopes of reviving the once important family empire; or perhaps finding new partners who would buy, lease or operate the family quarries. Pete Ruby has (among other things) significant deposits of slate, marble, gravel, and perhaps the world's largest deposit of serpentine (verde antique marble.) Stone from his family quarries resides in public buildings in Washinigton DC and other municipal centers.

Although there are plenty of uses for marble in construction, acid rain has put a significant dent in the exterior use of the stone. This is most noticeable in ancient Vermont graveyards, where many marble headstones have dissolved to the  point of the inscriptions not being able to be read. For this reason, granite is now the preferred material for monument use in our country.

In his typical generous fashion, Ruby supplied, at very low cost, some of the stone now being sculpted at the West Rutland Art Park Sculptfest. The organizers of the current Sculptfest, Peter Lundberg and his wife Yan a native of China, have held similar art events in China, they hope to assist the Ruby family in finding access to that market for their marble. Pete Ruby is delighted to have met up with them.

When there were once hundreds or maybe thousands of marble and stone carvers in Vermont, there are now a fraction of that number. Local sculptors, Brent Wilson and Don Ramey are among the few remaining local stone carvers in our region. Both have become well known for their production of art and of architectural elements.
From an industrial giant in the stone and mineral industry, Vermont has drifted into a declining quarry trade, searching to finding alternate uses for it's natural stone resources. Much of what was once used to build majestic buildings, now rides in long lines of rail cars heading out of state as dust or slurry.
Sculpfest returns our attention to the beauty of the stone in it's natural state, formed into creative objects for pleasure and to adorn our landscapes- and to remind us that our treasure beneath the ground is ready to resurface at a grander scale when we're ready to accept it.
For those interested in watching some of the world's best stone and metal sculptors at work, The West Rutland Art Park will continue to host their international art symposium until the end of this month. The public is encouraged to stop by Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. No invitation is required. School groups are also encouraged to visit. The Art Park is located at 1450 Clarendon Avenue in West Rutland, Vt. For additional information contact Yan Lu at 802-353-9650.