The fifteenth annual Magic of Marble Festival begins this week, April 11-22. Sponsored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Sylacauga Arts Council, the Festival is an artistic and educational event where some 35 sculptors will gather at Central Park across from Blue Bell Creameries to transform the visions in their minds and hearts to beautiful sculptured pieces of Sylacauga marble. Their skills vary, and they learn from each other and from an Italian sculptor from Pietrasanta, Italy, who works alongside them on a piece that will be left in Sylacauga at B.B. Comer Memorial Library. This year’s sculptor is renowned Marco Augusto Duenas. Dr. Ted Spears is the Chairman of this event, and his efforts have been tireless to keep its purpose and intent pure. The mission statement for the festival continues.
Remembering is delightful as I think back across the years when Rino Gianinni created “We Are All on the Same Boat” in 2009, and Giovanni Balderri created “The Mask” in 2010. Craigger Browne, Sylacauga’s resident sculptor placed his piece “Sylacauga Emerging” at City Hall in time for the fifth festival and the appearance of the first female Italian Sculptor, Roberta Giovanni, came to Central Park to join 16 other sculptors from the United States and Canada. Sylacauga can be very proud of its native son, Frank Murphy, acclaimed painter, who has become a master sculptor. Frank worked beside Sylacauga’s beloved Dale Liner, who was the face of the city to the sculptors until his sudden passing in October, 2018.
The cultural exchange that former Mayor Sam Wright and his entourage expected when they visited Pietrasanta, Italy, in 2008 has exceeded expectations. Sylacauga’s B.B. Comer Library has become the destination point for seeing the most beautiful marble sculptures in the United States, if not the world.
The festival also highlights the history of marble in the area. It is a fascinating history of Dr. Edward Gantt, a young surgeon in Andrew Jackson’s army, who was drawn to the beautiful stone in the area. He later came back to the area and opened a quarry here. Giusepei Moretti, famed Italian sculptor, familiar with the beauty of Italian marble, was in Birmingham with a commission to make Vulcan for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and discovered the beautiful “madre cream” stone sculpted into a Bible on the desk of John H. Adams, a young mining engineer with Republic Steel in Birmingham. This led him to Sylacauga where he established a studio and sculpted a beautiful piece, “The Head of Christ,” considered by the artist his masterpiece. He took it with him wherever he went and left it to the people of Alabama at his death. It is now displayed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery.
The library displays by Imery’s and Omya Corportion and the educational tours of their facilities and the fantastic support of Sylacauga Marble in providing dimension stone for this project speaks to the economic impact marble has on Sylacauga. The industries that have grown up around these quarries speak to this resource right here in our city, a resource that cannot be outsourced.
Marble is Sylacauga’s pride. From the Marble Scavenger Hunt March 24 until the end of the festival, April 22, there is something for every Sylacauga citizen to see and learn. Beautiful marble sculptures are available for sale inside B. B. Comer Library. A trip to Central Park across from Blue Bell will give you the opportunity to see the sculptors at work. Then be sure to go inside the library. You can pick up brochures there if you need more information. From its beginnings in 2008 (It was not so long ago at that!) until now, the magic continues.