Seeking hope: SculptFest 2017

” and serves as an interpretive passage for the millions of displaced Syrian refugees.

Janelle Faignant

Last December, Whitney Ramage was looking for an idea for this year’s SculptFest at The Carving Studio & Sculpture Center in West Rutland.

“Everything seemed so bleak at that time,” she said. “I was looking for a theme that would allow artists to express political feelings without being dour or didactic. I was hoping to create a positive platform to look at the state of things.”

Artists were asked to create work that symbolizes hope, and guest curator Ramage, 29, recently spoke about how and why the show was curated.

Robert Layman / Staff Photo Tom Kearns passes through his piece that will appear in this years Sculpfest. The piece, titled “A funny thing happened to Saul on the road from Damascus” is almost entirely raw West Rutland Marble, except for the polished gap at the bottom, and the polished inside corners at the top where he places his hands. Kearns became inspired from a piece after a moving accident broke the marble slab in half over an old rail road beam. Kearns said the piece models a “gateway,” and serves as an interpretive passage for the millions of displaced Syrian refugees.

“For this exhibit, I was hoping for the overarching feeling of uplifting poetics,” she said. “I was looking for work that was analogous rather than literal, work that had pathos.”

Ramage lives in Brooklyn, but grew up in Middletown Springs. She arrived in Rutland late Sunday night to begin preparation for “SculptFest 2017: The State of Hope,” which remains on exhibit through Oct. 22.

The proposals Ramage received covered a breadth of different takes on hope, a mix of themes within the theme. Each artist submitted a written statement of intent, samples of previous work, an artist bio, and a statement about their practice in general for consideration.

Artist Lila Ferber was chosen as one of the exhibitors, and the piece she submitted is an interactive marble track aiming to portray equality in communities.

“I have a handful of glass marbles that the audience can drop into multiple tunnels at the top,” Ferber said. “The marbles then roll through a series of paths made of stone, logs and junkyard metal. By playing with physical objects by hand instead of digital objects on a screen, participants are encouraged to get to know each other.”

Most of the pieces Ramage chose were site-specific, created specifically for the location at the Carving Studio, and mediums ranged from mixed media to video, to wood, stone, marble, cast metal and more.

This event and this year also mark The Carving Studio’s 30th anniversary.

“The Carving Studio is very dear to my heart,” Ramage said. “It helped form my understanding of myself as an artist and my idea of what sculpture is. It’s a tried-and-true fixture of the community, and it’s not easy to keep a space like that afloat and active.”

Carol Driscoll has been The Carving Studio’s executive director for 19 of its 30 years, and agreed, saying, “For a nonprofit in our discipline to survive this long is pretty amazing. The partnerships we’ve gained over the years are really meaningful to us. If we had to pay market rate for these services there’s no way we could survive. We’ve celebrated with a couple events, including two public art commissions for the city of Rutland.”

“The Carving Studio is really a gem in this area,” Ramage said. “It makes a lot of things possible for artistic people.”

The Carving Studio & Sculpture Center

The Carving Studio & Sculpture Center presents: “SculptFest 2017: The State of Hope” Sept. 9 – Oct. 22 at 636 Marble St. in West Rutland. Gallery hours are: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, or by appointment; call 802-438-2097, or go online to