AUGUSTA — To the untrained it’s a big chunk of rock, but Dick Alden sees the creation hidden inside the stone. Revealing that creation will take time and energy and cannot be done until the rock itself has had its say.

“The stone has a message quality about it,” Alden said. “I think there’s a spirit inside each section that will tell you what it wants to be.”

Those stone stories are coming to life this week at the second annual sculpture symposium at the Viles Aboretum, the 224-acre preserve off Hospital Street. The symposium, which runs through Saturday, has attracted more than a half dozen nationally known artists, or rock stars of sorts, who carve rocks into finished designs. The symposium, which is free, offers a chance to get up close and personal with the artists to find out how and why they do what they do. The artists are at work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., throughout the symposium, making it an ideal landing spot for school field trips. The artists’ demonstrations allow for lots of questions and even include chances for the students to work with the rock.

“People are very interested,” said Alden, of Boothbay. “People who come here love stone. Or some people are just out for a walk in the arboretum. It’s a good experience.”

A few dozen fifth through eighth graders from Trenton Elementary School in Hancock County took the tour on Monday, spending much of their time with Woolwich sculptor Andreas von Huene, who was crafting an owl in flight out of the rock. Art teacher Connie Barnes said the school received information on the symposium last spring and decided to make the trek west this fall. Barnes’ students have been working on sculptures over the first few weeks of school to prepare for the trip.

“It’s a chance to talk to a real artist about their vision,” Barnes said. “That is not an opportunity they normally get.”


Huene enthusiastically described the process of reading the rock at every stage. The work involves constant assessment and even consultations with colleagues to determine how to work the rock’s natural features into the finished product. Huene, like Alden, likened it to a conversation between artist and stone. And like any good conversation, part of the art is knowing when it should end and figuring how to bow out gracefully.

“Eventually you realize if you go any more you’re over-doing it,” Huene said. “I don’t know how far I’m taking this one yet.”

Seventh grader Noah Lambert of Trenton, who was carrying a sketch book of his own creations, said watching Huene work “was really cool.” Lambert was impressed with the detail of the owl and with the length of time it takes Huene to complete each project. Lambert, who likes to work with clay, said he is unlikely to give up the medium for stone any time soon.

“I don’t think I have the patience,” he said.

The symposium is an outcropping of a relationship between the arboretum and several sculptors who in 2013 donated several pieces to the preserve for its trails. The arboretum hosted the first symposium last year.

This is the latest public sculpture symposium in Maine. The annual Schoodic symposium in Down East Maine, which began in 2007 and ended last year, resulted in more than 30 pieces of large-scale stonework placed across the region from Orono to Deer Isle to Lubec and Calais.


The Schoodic symposium involved international artists who applied to attend and were paid for their work. The Viles symposium features Maine artists, all of whom volunteer their time and talents.

Their work will be placed around the walking trails of the arboretum and will be for sale.

Tenants Harbor artist Lise Becu said the symposium is small but rife with talent.

“It’s all local,” she said.

Alden said there is an intimate quality to the symposium that fosters a camaraderie among the artists. The sculptors feed off one another and help each other with ideas and sometimes the heavy job of moving a rock.

“A symposium like this is so much fun,” he said. “I say I’m with my tribe.”


Alden was creating a scaled-up version of a project he calls “Seeker,” which features a woman with her hands touching, in praying form, above her head. The stone has a golden glow about the face that only appears when wet.

“It’s going to be really interesting when it comes through,” Alden said, detailing the thought process behind the work, beginning with the reason he chose this particular stone. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve made a lot of progress.”

Alden, who has worked as a full-time artist since retiring from banking six years ago, has been sculpting for 30 years. The medium gives him a combination of physical labor and mental release that others would not. He hopes the symposium offers a chance for others to experience the same satisfaction.

“Maybe out of 300-some-odd kids that come this week, it will light a spark in some of them,” Alden said. “It’s just so much fun.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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