A dozen Maine sculptors and one from Japan are in residence this week at the Boothbay Railway Village, working in public view through Aug. 20 as part of a monthlong exhibition about the history of stonework in Maine. If all goes as planned, a half-dozen of the sculptures they create will remain in Boothbay after the Maine Coast Stone Symposium concludes to anchor a community sculpture trail that organizers hope to open next year.

Boothbay Railway Village is an unlikely setting for the project, because it’s a transportation museum. But Executive Director Margaret Hoffman quickly realized the benefit of hosting the live-carving symposium. “How often do you get to have these kinds of artists in a place that can put their work and their tradition in context for you? Our exhibit offers wonderful photographic evidence of the industry and how far back it goes in Maine,” she said. “Because we are a transportation museum, we explore how the railroads formed and where the roadways were built to accommodate the quarries.”

“Built with Stone: The Story of Granite, Slate, and Limestone in Maine” also tells the history of the schooners that were built to transport granite from Maine up and down the East Coast.

One-third of the granite used in America’s westward expansion in the late 1800s and early 1900s came from Maine, and America’s most famous buildings and bridges are made with Maine granite, including the White House, Washington Monument and Brooklyn Bridge. The memorial stone in Arlington National Cemetery for President John F. Kennedy is made of slate from Monson, and some of the pink granite for the Tomb of Unknowns at Arlington came from a quarry in Wells.

The exhibition illustrates the story with photos of buildings and landmarks that use Maine stone, linked with maps that show the quarries where the stone originated. There are displays of quarrying tools, equipment and rock samples, as well as demonstrations and talks.

Nearly all the sculptors working on site this week are carving in granite. They chose projects they could complete, or mostly complete, in a short amount of time.

“Part of the allure is that it gives you a chance to clear your calendar for 10 days, push the world away and concentrate on your art,” said Arrowsic sculptor Andreas von Huene. “The point isn’t to finish something, but to share the experience with other artists and the public.”

Von Huene enjoys talking about sculpture in Maine and is comfortable working in public. “It’s a little like performance art. If I see someone watching for more than 15 seconds or so, I will put down the grinder and talk to them,” he said. “We do awfully good work in Maine, and it’s nice to be able to build upon it and share.”

He was among a trio of artists who approached the Railway Village with the idea of hosting the symposium. After similar gatherings at Viles Arboretum in Augusta, the artists wanted to show their work on the midcoast in the summer, where tourism brings steady traffic and better chances for sales. Hoffman was familiar with many of the artists through her work at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, which covers its grounds with sculpture each year.

She hopes the Maine Coast Stone Symposium becomes a biannual event, similar to the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium that operated for more than a decade and resulted in the installation of three dozen public sculptures across Down East.

FUTURE SCULPTURE TRAIL

All the pieces created in Boothbay will be for sale, and some likely will remain in town and become anchors for a sculpture trail, said Patricia Inness Royall, executive director of the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce. “We’re hoping and anticipating we will have six or eight pieces from the symposium that we can place in strategic spots around the harbor, and that will segue into what we will call the Boothbay Harbor Sculpture Trail starting next spring,” she said.

To help build momentum for the trail and to begin a community conversation about sculpture, the chamber installed a piece by symposium artist – and the chamber director’s cousin – William Royall in front of its building. Another two pieces by von Huene are on view indoors at the chamber. “We want to promote Boothbay Harbor as a place for the arts, and we see this as a way to bring a new type of visitor to the Boothbay Harbor region – a more sophisticated, art-loving visitor who can appreciate that we have a lot of galleries here. The sculpture gives us another way to promote that aspect of our community,” she said.

Other artists participating in the symposium are Dick Alden of Boothbay, Lise Becu of Tenants Harbor, David Curry of Union, Mark Herrington of Franklin, Isabel Kelley of Portland, Miles Chapin of Arrowsic, David Sywalski of Trenton, Dan Ucci of Pittston, William Jacobs of Richmond and David Randall of Wayne. Kamu Nagasawa, a sculptor from Japan, will join them.

Von Huene loves the international flavor of these events. “To be friends with people you can’t have a conversation with, but still laugh and point and giggle, that feels really magnificent. That’s part of the bigger picture that appeals to me,” he said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes