After participating in sculpture symposia in other countries I felt that these events are something we should be presented here in Alberta. Unlike typical symposia, that would be considered intellectual events, most sculpture symposia are working events and typically last 3-6 weeks.
Over a period of about five years, I wasn’t able to convince a community in Alberta to host one so I just decided to go ahead and do it at my acreage in Bergen. I was pretty sure that although the pomp and ceremony that is normal at these events in other countries would be absent the grassroots nature of my concept would be interesting enough to attract sculptors. I contacted 20 friends from around the world and all of them responded that they’d love to participate. In good conscience I couldn’t choose between them, they were all great artists, so I literally drew five names from a hat for Bergen Rocks 2008. Each year awareness in the international sculpture community has grown, 178 proposals for participation were received for the fourth event!!
Organizing an event like this is a huge task for one person, so I started a year ahead of time. The budget, even for a small event like I planned, is relatively large too. Each artist receives an honorarium for their participation, meals, tools, activities, insurance, volunteer recognition, and 50,000lb of marble delivered to the site totaled more than $50,000. In 2008 the Alberta Foundation for the Arts contributed $15,000 and in 2009 Mountain View County chipped in $2000. I funded Bergen Rocks 2010 and 2011 100% on my own dime.
The nearby communities of Didsbury and Olds hosted welcome events for the artists in 08 and 09. The City of Calgary sent a representative out to perform a white hat ceremony and Travel Alberta presented the participants with a gift of Alberta’s provincial stone each year. I really appreciated these gestures. Symposia in other countries are over the top with pageantry. Part of the charm of Bergen Rocks is that it’s come to be recognized by sculptors around the world as a grass roots event, they understand that we are doing something new for our area and are excited to be part of it. They think it’s charming that we raise our own flags, sing our own national anthems and have a gas singing songs around the campfire and hiking down to the nearby river to wade and swim. Bergen Rocks is truly a grass roots event, the only artist sponsored monumental stone sculpture symposium in the world!
Through my association with friends in the Atti2ude Club (a worldwide group of artists, arts administrators and arts supporters) I have came to realize that the arts can provide significant social and economic benefits. I hope to build awareness of this in the area around my home and so I when I started this project I developed a set of objectives that would to make that to happen
- To allow sculptors to make the acquaintance of other participating artists.
- Sharing of cultural norms, provide the public of the surrounding area an opportunity to become familiar with the tendencies of modern sculpture.
- To promote the work of the participating sculptors and strengthen international relations
- To demonstrate the community and economic development opportunities that art provides
- To stimulate the presentation of sculpture symposia and to increase the dissemination of public art throughout Alberta.
It’s noteworthy that the Bergen Rocks program has now stimulated sculpture exhibits in two other communities in the area where I live, one in Olds and one in Sylvan Lake. If we can establish a few more it’s conceivable that Central Alberta will be able to claim the title of Sculpture Capital of Canada and we will start to experience Art Tourism. When I mention that in my neck of the woods now people look at me like a dog that doesn’t know which hand I have the ball in. Art tourism is an identified segment of the tourism industry in other parts of the world, once we get it working it will be a completely new industry here. That’s pretty cool.