Rutland students learn marble carving

Published: Feb. 21, 2020 at 5:08 PM EST
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Rutland area high school students are learning a trade that's not usually taught. They took part in a free, one-day marble carving workshop at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, learning about their community's history and keeping this local tradition alive.

Stone is a medium used since humans have been around. That's why instructor Stephen Shaheen says it's important to teach young artists how to work with it. High school students learn the principles of marble carving and the tools of the trade. Then they attempt their own small sculpture.

Shaheen says the craft has more components than other art forms. "You have different tool needs, you have different material complexity and difficulty that you have to deal with, so I think learning that at an earlier age is definitely beneficial," he said.

Shaheen studied the trade in Italy, but continues to gravitate towards Vermont marble, not just because of its colors. "While I'm not from Vermont, I'm from four hours south of here, and so this is like my material that I am related to in a sort of geological and landscape way," Shaheen said.

West Rutland's marble industry flourished in the 1850s, providing stone for many buildings and monuments in Washington D.C. and becoming one of the leading producers in the world. Between 1870 and 1880 the population nearly doubled from 1,600 to 3,000. But during the 20th century, the demand for marble dropped as people began using newer materials to build, and many quarries were shut down.

While marble isn't the economic driver it once was, courses like these help pass the art form on to a younger generation.

"I love stone and I love carving. It makes me happy," said Drew Fredreck, a local 10th grader. He says the stone carvings bring the colors out in West Rutland and that it's an art people should continue creating. "It's much more beautiful than the modern architecture."