Sculpting symposium coming to Nelson

Several international artists are expected in Nelson late this summer to create stone pieces at the foot of Baker St.

Bernie Swendson

Several international artists are expected in Nelson late this summer to create stone pieces at the foot of Baker St.

The Kootenay International Stone Sculpting Symposium will fulfill the longtime dream of local sculptors John McKinnon and Denis Kleine, who have participated in similar events around the world.

“These things happen all over the place and I’ve always wanted to do one here,” McKinnon says. “A symposium is a meeting of minds.”

McKinnon and Kleine will join two other Canadian and four European artists from Aug. 29 to Sept. 16. Although the full line-up isn’t confirmed, McKinnon knows and has worked with the other artists, mostly in ice carving.

They will carve eight life-size sculptures out of stone from the Marblehead quarry in the Lardeau, which recently re-opened as a commercial operation. The finished works will stay in the area.

McKinnon, who is organizing the event with Kleine, Bernie Swendson, Wally Penner, and others through a new society, said they have already looked at prospective pieces of marble.

“They’re all different shapes. We thought we might number the pieces, take pictures of them, and then pull names out of a hat to see who gets what shape, and [the artists] can work on a design before they get here. Professionals pretty much can come up with something on the spot, but when you’re dealing with a stone piece, it’s probably a good idea to have a preconceived notion.”

McKinnon said they’ve discussed having a loose theme, but haven’t come up with one yet.

Each artist will be responsible for one piece, although there will likely be some collaboration.

“We’ve got 15 working days. We can do it,” McKinnon says. “We’re not going to be getting too complicated, no hard realism. Even at that, if you’ve got the right tools and work hard, you can produce a pretty nice piece in that time. It’s a bit back breaking so we don’t want it going longer than that.”

McKinnon noted he participated in a successful 10-day symposium in Israel using stone blocks four times the size of the ones that will be worked on here.

The sculptures-in-progress will be set up outside the new visitor centre, which McKinnon said will help promote the ongoing redevelopment of the Railtown area. The public will be able to watch the pieces being created and Kootenay Studio Arts students and high school arts students will also have the opportunity to work with the artists.

Swendson says they’re in the midst of fundraising to pay for the stone, bring the artists here, host them, and pay honorariums.

They’ll also need to provide tools. The European artists won’t be able to bring theirs, since North America has different power socket standards. However, McKinnon doesn’t anticipate any difficulty.

“Everyone we’ve talked to has been open to the idea and very encouraging. It will be nice to have a collection of international works in Nelson. It will take the local arts scene to another level.”

Swendson says while they aren’t associated with any other arts organization, they want to complement work already being done by Castlegar’s Sculpturewalk and Nelson’s Cultural Development Committee. They’ve been working on the project for a couple of months. Although they originally intended to host the symposium next year, the artists were available sooner.

The organization’s website is kisss.ca.

 

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