A preliminary meeting on January 8 gave residents the chance to learn how the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium operates and the process behind Castine receiving one of the sculptures created during the 2014 event.
A Castine committee created after the SISS asked whether the town was interested in being a sculpture recipient hosted the meeting at Maine Maritime Academy’s Bath Iron Works auditorium.
“This is a fantastic endeavor,” said committee chairman Debbie Neve.
Symposium founder Jesse Salisbury presented slides of previous symposiums and sculptures, before and after installation in their selected towns. Then he described the selection process for both artist and town.
The Schoodic committee chooses artists based on their body of existing work rather than a specific proposal, Salisbury said. The site where a sculpture will be placed determines its design.
Participating towns view the six chosen artists’ portfolios and give their top choices, with communities being matched with one of their top two choices “nearly every time,” said Salisbury. “It’s an organic process that just miraculously happens very well.”
An educational component is a major part of the symposium and the town’s sculpture installation, with SISS staff working with local schools to involve the sculpture in curriculum.
“My interest is to grow the next generation of sculptors,” Salisbury said.
The chosen artists create their work at the Schoodic Education Research Center in Acadia National Park with granite excavated from quarries around the state.
“We really try to mix Maine artists with international artists as much as possible,” said Salisbury.
The total cost of creating the sculpture is $40,000 to $50,000, including promotional materials. Participating communities “chip in a portion…typically fundraised, not municipal,” said Salisbury. The number for Castine is around $12,000.
“This is not an official town project. We’re not asking for town land or town money,” Neve said. The Castine committee will decide to move forward if the town is selected by SSIS, holding a public meeting first “if time allows.”
The committee has already decided on its top two sites for a sculpture: the grass area between the Wilson Museum’s Perkins House and the house beside it, overlooking Penobscot Bay; and on Wadsworth Cove, adjacent to the public beach on property owned by Neve, to which she would grant a public easement.
Sites on Dice Head and Fort George run far behind these two, Neve said.
Some community members raised the question of who approves the site and the sculpture itself.
“It’s not a town project, but it affects the whole town,” said citizen Julianne Gardner.
The town [through the local committee] agrees to the artist, not to the specific work, Salisbury said, based on the artist’s portfolio. The artist creates a proposal, reviewed by the Schoodic committee, after visiting the selected site and the town.
After input “in describing our town to the artist,” said Neve, “we step back and let the artist do their work.”
In a phone call after the meeting, Neve said the committee “will probably” put the final site selection to town vote.
The Castine Board of Selectmen submitted a letter of support for the project to the symposium, Selectman David Unger announced at the meeting.
In addition to owning a Schoodic sculpture, Castine would be part of the SISS sculpture tour, which runs from Little Deer Isle to Machias, covering 18 sites.
The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium began eight years ago, with the goal of holding five symposiums over a 10-year period. The symposiums end in 2014.