GOULDSBORO —Seven years and 34 sculptures valued at $3 million later, artist Jesse Salisbury is taking a much deserved breather.
The biennial Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium (SISS) inaugurated in 2007 has come to a close.
The finishing touches on the last of seven sculptures were completed before the closing ceremony Sept. 10 at Fisher Field in Prospect Harbor.
“I’m not saying I won’t do it again,” said Salisbury, a sculptor and prime mover behind the initiative. “I’d be willing to consider it, but under a different role.”
The chairman of the symposium, Don Harward, said the ambition was realized in prepared comments for the closing.
“The dream was to be international in scope, attracting international artists, creating monumental stone art that has as its source a local geology and sculpture,” he said.
Salisbury said the sculptures also have put Maine on the map in the world of international sculpture.
“The symposiums created an identity for this area as a happening place for sculpture,” Salisbury said. “No one has tried anything on this scale in Maine or anywhere else in the country.”
Sculpture symposiums in the modern era date back to 1959 in Austria. Sculptors gather at various places around the world, learn from each other, gain exposure to a variety of concepts and cultures, engage the public and create a new and permanent piece for the community.
Speakers at the closing remarked on each aspect: an engagement with the public —particularly schoolchildren — and in the end, a large-scale sculpture for participating artists.
The concept was particularly relevant to Maine with its rich granite-quarrying history. At one time there were 170 quarries in the state.
Maine granite helped build, among many other noteworthy structures, St. John the Divine Church, the Brooklyn Bridge and Grant’s Tomb in New York City as well as the Washington Monument.
Each symposium year, different communities decided whether to participate and then raised about one-quarter of the funds needed for the project.
This year those municipalities were Lubec, Calais, Harrington, Bucksport, Surry, Jonesport and Castine. Each was asked to raise $12,000.
The placement was decided by the symposium organizers, who required a public space easily visible to passers-by.
The sculptors said they derived their inspiration from a variety of sources, most often the communities that chose to locate a sculpture within their borders.
Bertha Shortiss of Switzerland created “Wave Sounds” for Surry based on photos the town sent her of its seaside character.
Although she had worked with granite for prior projects, she found the Maine granite particularly unyielding, but rewarding.
“It takes a lot of energy, but it gives a lot of energy when it’s finished,” Shortiss said.
Robert Leverich of Olympia, Wash., conceived of “Home and Away” for Castine after spending several days in the community on land and on the water.
“People were very attached to Castine as their home, sometimes for generations, whether they lived here year-round or in the summer,” he said. “I came up with this idea of coming and going.”
The three pieces will be installed alongside the Wilson Museum overlooking the Bagaduce River.
The sculptors select the granite after visiting several quarries. Leverich settled on his at the First Quarry in Jonesboro.
Matthew Foster of Maine created “Before the Wind” for Bucksport, whose residents said it was intended for the children, future generations.
The design incorporates that vision and hope along with Bucksport’s rich shipbuilding history.
“When a ship is running before the wind the wind is behind the vessel, running it forward,” Foster said. “Here was history and the wind propelling the piece forward.”
His granite was obtained from Mosquito Mountain quarry in Frankfort and is the same granite that was used in building Fort Knox in Bucksport.
“I wanted as local a piece of stone as possible,” Foster said.
The sculptors lived together in a sprawling home in Winter Harbor from Aug. 3 to Sept. 14.
Volunteers prepared meals, leaving the sculptors free to help each other on site and in the evening.
“One of the fun parts, and the most challenging, was dealing with all of the people,” Salisbury said of his colleagues. “I learned a huge amount about sculpture over the 10 years.”
He said many tools and techniques were tested and then kept or discarded.
This year, said Salisbury, the process was shortened by two weeks because everyone simply learned from experience.
He had a one-week respite planned before leaving for China, where one of his large sculptural pieces was installed along with 39 others on an island near Taiwan.
Salisbury said the symposium definitely comes under the category of mission accomplished.
“I think this project has people thinking about public art, cultural tourism and community building,” he said.
A few months after he returns from China, Salisbury will be scouting for black granite to create the Lost Fishermen’s Memorial in Lubec.
The memorial will honor fishermen from Washington County and Charlotte County in New Brunswick, Canada, lost at sea while pursuing their livelihood.