Obadiah Buell looks at a sculpture under construction on the grounds of the Granite Art Garden in Sullivan. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTOS BY JOHANNA S. BILLINGS

Quarry Fest event announces new nonprofit

SULLIVAN — Sculptor Obadiah Buell will be celebrating his parents’ legacy Saturday, Aug. 17, with an event he’s calling Quarry Fest.

Starting at 10 a.m., Quarry Fest will offer games, demonstrations, a bonfire and fireworks to announce the formation of The Granite Art Garden, a nonprofit organization offering an artist-in-residence program, classes and opportunity for artistic collaboration.

“It’s really something my parents and I dreamed about together,” said Buell.

His parents, the late Liz and Dave Buell, moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 1967.

“They were bottle diggers and they dug up a bottle that said Franklin, Maine,” he said, adding they wanted to see where the town was. So they moved, buying land in Sullivan that eventually became the site for Stone Designs & The Granite Garden Gallery.

Buell described his parents as “idealistic hippies” who wanted to make a living off the land. They hosted many gatherings, bringing together people who wanted to make art.

They also had a business making fireworks.

Obadiah Buell looks out over one of the historic quarries on the premises.

“We grew up doing pyrotechnics,” said Buell, who has two siblings. “That’s an art in itself.”

The new nonprofit venture, which was established over the winter, is intended to bring back the cooperative spirit of people gathering to make art and living off the land. Buell said many people today feel disconnected from one another, due in part to technology and the fast pace of life. The Granite Art Garden offers them a break from that or even a change in lifestyle.

Buell said he hopes the nonprofit, with its own board and volunteers, will allow him time to concentrate on his own work.

“I’m not money driven but you’ve got to make a living,” he said, adding, “Now the trendy thing is to create these nonprofit businesses.”

The nonprofit’s mission is to promote history, art and sustainability at the historic quarry on the Whales Back Road property “through experiential learning and engagement with the land,” according to a flyer Buell prepared.

The history portion centers on the historic art of quarrying and the geology of Sullivan, which was part of the booming industry of granite quarrying in the 19th century.

Sustainability includes organic gardening with opportunities for volunteers and apprenticeship positions, with an emphasis on sustainable living skills.

“We preserve our families’ legacy in the back-to-the-land movement and living the good life,” says the flyer.

The community will be able to be involved in some of the same ways it has always been, with access to trails for walking, biking and skiing as well as community events focusing on music and art.

Of course, art is at the center of it all, with basic and advanced stone sculpting classes, demonstrations and space for artistic collaborations.

Buell described his vision as “ambitious,” adding he feels “maxed out” by the need to create and sell his own work while handling all the different tasks associated with giving back. This is part of the reason he decided to establish the nonprofit separately from his own sculpting business.

He envisions some needed assistance coming from someone, possibly a couple, to serve as groundskeeper. While living in one of the many cabins on the premises, the couple would assist with various tasks related to running the nonprofit. Their primary job, however, would be to maintain the walking trails that wander through the granite quarries and take care of vegetable and flower gardens, as well as a few resident chickens. They would be free to adapt the space to suit their own vision.

Buildings on the property are set up to be both libraries and sleeping quarters that could provide space for artists in residence. Buell also hopes to add a campground.

In the gardens, which will become part of the nonprofit, he has already created spots where people can have tea and make small sculptures.

Visitors will also be free to visit the water and feed the fish and try to spot wildlife such as turtles sunning themselves on the rocks.

Buell is also looking for anyone interested in investing or playing a larger role. He can be reached at 664-9951 or [email protected]

Quarry Fest, which is free and open to the public, takes place at the garden gallery, 228 Whales Back Road, Sullivan.

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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