West Rutland gallery embraces elemental art form - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

West Rutland gallery embraces elemental art form

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In West Rutland, in a modern gallery, in a historical part of town, a Vermont artist is carving out a contemporary twist in a traditional Green Mountain State art form.

"Life and energy and time is kind of captured in the stone and I think the job of the sculptor is to give voice to it," said artist Kevin Donegan.

Donegan's show, "Lock is Key," is exhibited at the Carving Studio Gallery on Marble Street in the historical Marble District of West Rutland. The gallery is part of the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, opened in 1987 and set among marble quarries to the back and celebrating the art of stone carving everywhere you look. The center has a sculpture garden opened in 1991 and containing more than 50 stone carvings.

The tradition of working with stone in West Rutland goes back hundreds of years. In the early 19th century marble deposits were discovered in West Rutland and after the arrival of the railroad it became one of the top producers of marble in the world. The Vermont Marble Company operated at this very site. "There's something about working with a material that's as ancient as stone. I mean, it's like the bones of the Earth, and there's nothing more profound than that. You are really touching the essence of the world that we live in," said B. Amore, founder of the CSSC.

In present day, West Rutland High school students like Alex Burke are taking those old stones and making new masterpieces. "When I get to come here on Fridays, it's really relaxing from the classroom, it's a better transition," Burke said.

Students get more out of their class, than just learning how to make a beautiful piece of artwork. "They are learning manual control, physical techniques -- they get comfortable with tools, so it's not just like a digital age, it's a very manual process," said Jonathon Lafarge, the studio's manager.

For an art form that some say is fading, stone carving enthusiasts disagree and think this tradition is set in stone. "All of the public art that is made of stone is not going anywhere, it's not rusting away, the paint is not peeling, the stone is there," said Amore. 

"The marble industry in Vermont is a couple of hundred years old, but stone carving has been around since caveman times, and I think it has been a part of our history and it will continue to be," said Donegan.

Artists like Donegan are keeping West Rutland's history alive by making contemporary masterpieces out of age-old materials.

Donegan's exhibit runs through May 4.

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