HALLOWELL — As six Maine sculptors each create an art piece at Stevens Commons to mark the state’s bicentennial, the public is invited to watch the process unfold daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., until the event’s conclusion, Sunday, Sept. 19. Guests may vote for their favorite sculpture. One or more of the artworks will be permanently placed in downtown Hallowell; the remaining sculptures will be available for sale via the Harlow Gallery.

The event was organized by the Hallowell Arts & Cultural Committee, the Maine Stone Workers Guild, the Historic Hallowell Committee, and Vision Hallowell.

Deb Fahy, chair of the Hallowell Arts & Cultural Committee, said the competition is entirely funded by grants and donations. The Maine 2020 Bicentennial Commission awarded the project $10,000 in 2019. Recently, Kennebec Savings Bank in Augusta contributed a $5,000 gift.

Granite carvers deliver additional slabs Friday at Stevens Commons in Hallowell for this week’s granite art event. Six acclaimed sculptors will each publicly create a large art piece, working every day through Sunday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Fahy said the organizers originally wanted to seek additional local sponsorships but chose to nix that plan when many businesses were hit hard by the COVID pandemic.

Visitors are asked to follow CDC guidelines, and Fahy said hand sanitizer and masks will be available.

The four themes of the show are Living in Maine; the business of Maine; Maine leads; and the Maine character. Living in Maine relates to the variety of people and cultures in the state. The business of Maine focuses on the state’s economic activity. Maine Leads showcases the state’s role in national events, such as its significance in the national debate about slavery. Finally, the Maine Character pertains to the state’s unique communities, diverse perspectives, and backgrounds.

The six sculptors, all members of the Maine Stone Workers Guild, are Dick Alden of Boothbay, who has 25 years of experience carving wood and stone; Jon Doody of Augusta, who has participated in many public art demonstrations and has been a sculptor in residence at Stevens Commons since 2019; Mark Herrington of Franklin, a self-taught artist who describes his work as a product of “aesthetic rigor with a passion for minimalism”; Isabel Catherine Kelley of Windham, who has shown sculptural work throughout New England after receiving a BFA in sculpture with a minor in art history from the Maine College of Art in 2013; Dan Ucci, based at Ledge Hill Creations in Piston, whose work involves changing the texture of stone by polishing, hammering, or adding other materials to give it a new and different life; and Andreas von Huene of Woolwich, who creates refined sculptures that cover a wide range of subjects, media, and scales.

Every day the public may watch as the six sculptors transform large chunks of granite  — some almost man-sized — into works of art. The artists are placed in stations throughout the commons. “They wear protection like heavy-duty goggles, ear protection, and some even wear respirators,” Fahy said. “They’re reasonably well separated because of COVID, and also because there is a lot of noise and debris flying once they get working.”

In addition to the six sculptor stations, the event also has a welcome center that provides historic information on Hallowell’s granite industry, giving context to the artists’ work.

Fahy explained that the Arts & Cultural Committee will pick which sculptures will go on permanent display in the town, but that the committee members will consider the public’s vote in their decision.

“My goal is to someday have sculptures from Augusta to Gardiner,” she said. “There are some really great sculptures around UMA, on the waterfront, and in Gardiner, and also at Viles Arboretum. There are a bunch that were done by similar (events), so it would be really fun for people to travel through the towns and go visit them all.”

Fahy suggested that guests stop by on two or more days, rather than just one, so they can follow how the sculptures are turning out.

“That’s the whole fun of it,” she said, “watching the artists at work, and watching their ideas, their vision, emerge out of stone. It’s really cool and it’s not an opportunity people get very often.”

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