Upcoming Saint John international sculpture symposium will be its final one

Saint John will host the fifth and final edition of the New Brunswick International Sculpture Symposium, known as Sculpture Saint John, beginning Aug. 11.

By the time the fifth edition wraps on Sept. 10, it will have created 38 sculptures, used more than 600 tonnes of granite and attracted about 175,000 people to the city.

After this year, a dozen of the sculptures, valued at $1.2 million will remain in the city, and 20 in the greater Saint John area, organizer Diana Alexander told city council on Monday night.

The event has also allowed smaller municipalities to acquire their own public art pieces — something they may not have been able to afford without the event.

“Certainly areas like Cambridge Narrows would never have a piece of public art,” said Alexander. “And this has given them their first piece of public art.”

Jim Boyd, from Hampton, N.B., one of eight participants in the 2022 event, created this sculpture in 2018. It’s one of several on display in Grand Bay-Westfield, N.B. (Sculpture Saint John)

Alexander said Sculpture Saint John has been “significant for a lot of communities throughout New Brunswick.”

Other communities that have acquired sculptures from the events over the years include Hampton, Sussex, Gagetown, New Maryland, St. George and Blacks Harbour.

Domenico Di Guglielmo created this piece in 2018, which is now on display in St. Martins, N.B. (Sculpture Saint John)

Alexander said the finished sculptures are worth between $100,000 and $125,000 each. She said communities pay $15,000, and organizers raise the rest.

There will be eight sculptures created on Long Wharf. The sculptors, who come from Georgia, Poland, Latvia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Canada, will each be given a chunk of granite to work with over the four-week-long event.

Alexander said the participants were chosen from 187 applicants from 57 different countries. She said visitors have come for the event from as far away as Australia.

“Approximately 30,000 to 35,000 people attend each symposium,” said Alexander. “So it is a significant draw to the waterfront and to the people in Saint John.”

The before and after of Jim Boyd’s work at the International Sculpture Symposium in 2016. (CBC)

But it will end at five, said Alexander.

“We always said we were going to have five and that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.

Artist Anna Rasinka created this piece, which is now in Fredericton. (Sculpture Saint John)

Maine began a similar series of events in 2007.

Alexander said that once this year’s event is complete, there will be 72 pieces of public art between Maine and New Brunswick.

Together, the two events have created a trail that extends more than 870 kilometres — 445 of those in New Brunswick, she said.

The fifth and final edition of the Saint John event was supposed to happen in 2020, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous events were held in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

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