The Saint John Sculpture Symposium has its final first day

New Brunswick will soon be home to eight new public works of art since the fifth and final Saint John Sculpture Symposium began Thursday.

The symposium brings together eight artists from Canada and beyond to create sculptures that will become public works of art. When the event concludes on September 10, the symposium will have contributed 38 public works of art to New Brunswick over 10 years.

“It’s just such a relief to finally bring this to a conclusion,” said Diana Alexander, executive director of the symposium.

Like many other events scheduled to take place in 2020, the symposium has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not the only hurdle Alexander and her team had to overcome.

In 2019, the symposium selected eight sculptors from 187 international applicants for its 2020 event. Three of these artists cannot make it this year due to international travel issues.

Granite stones were trucked in from Quebec for the artists to work on. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

“So let’s crawl a little now,” Alexander said. “I think we have the three artists that will replace them, but we had to stay in Canada.”

One such artist is Montreal-based Marie-Josée Leroux. She is attending for the first time, but has applied for the symposium three times. She left Montreal on Wednesday morning and made it in time for Thursday’s laying of the stones.

“It’s just great,” said Leroux. “This is about life, you know? When you suddenly have opportunities like this.”

The Saint John Sculpture Symposium was only to be held five times, Alexander said. But she has spoken to other congregations in the province about giving the symposium a new home.

The symposium brings public art to smaller communities

Part of what makes the event special is that it allows smaller communities across the province to own public art, said Trevor Holder, the provincial minister for post-secondary education, training and employment, who attended the event.

He said the symposium introduced many New Brunswickers to public art for the first time.

Philip Savage, right, looks over a granite boulder that will soon stand in front of Saint John City Hall. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

“In many cases, it was the first time they created a town square concept because they had a sculpture in their hometown that created that type of environment,” Holder said.

Communities can purchase the art, which Alexander says is worth an estimated $100,000 each, for $15,000.

Jim Boyd, an artist originally from Saint John, has attended all five symposiums over the past 10 years. He said that part of the appeal is exhibiting his art across the province.

“I think it’s nice, I really like having sculptures right in small towns,” Boyd said.

Boyd is one of two New Brunswickers attending the symposium. The other, Philip Savage, creates a sculpture to be displayed in front of Saint John City Hall.

He is excited about the importance of the future placement of his work.

Wiktor Kopacz and Marie-Josée Leroux talk about sculptures. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

“It’s a great feeling,” Savage said. “It could possibly stand there for hundreds of years.”

Leroux, the Montreal-based sculptor, said people in Saint John should not take the opportunity to attend a sculpture symposium for granted.

“You have something precious on your hands,” she said. “And you will have sculptures that will stay. Talk about history because they will still be there in 500 years.”

Interaction with viewers

Wiktor Kopacz, a sculptor from Poland, is looking forward to public participation. He enjoys explaining his ideas to viewers and getting their feedback.

“It’s nice to understand whether people like it or not,” he said.

Kopacz also appreciates the opportunity to collaborate and learn from other artists.

Wild agrees.

“I don’t think there’s a school to go to in a world where you have to pick so many experienced minds,” he said.

Leave a Comment