This year’s Sylacauga Magic of Marble Festival features Francesco Badalacchi, a master “Artigiano” from the Cervietti Studio – one of the oldest and most respected marble laboratories – in Pietrasanta. At 33 he is the youngest Pietrasanta representative to go to Sylacauga, Alabama; previous years’ Festivals have featured Renzo Maggi and Roberta Giovannini.
26 other sculptors are participating in this year’s event, which continues until the 21st of April, 2014. Alabama State Council on the Arts executive director Al Head welcomed the guest sculptors.
Visit the Sylacauga marble Festival website, linked here.
26 sculptors visiting
for Marble Festival
SYLACAUGA – Under dust-filled tents at Blue Bell Park, sculptors from around the world are creating their next works of art using Sylacauga marble.
As they sketch, chisel and sand white stone, the 26 artists visiting the city during its sixth annual Magic of Marble Festival are both teaching and learning from those around them – and none is happier to soak up the exchange than Italian artist Francesco Badalacchi.
An ongoing partnership between Sylacauga and Pietrasanta, Italy, allows the city to bring an Italian sculptor to the festival each year, and having never visited the United States, Badalacchi jumped at the opportunity to attend.
“We were asked if anyone from our studio would like to go to the festival, and I was the first one to say yes,” said Badalacchi, who speaks English but admits he is not good with Southern accents. “It was a chance to travel and experience something new.”
At the park, where sculptors are working daily through April 19, he is creating a Roman foot out of marble. The piece is a replica of a sculpture Badalacchi brought from his home studio, Cervietti Franco and C. Studio, in Pietrasanta, where he has worked since 2001.
His family-owned studio specializes in the reproduction of classic and modern marble sculptures and also produces portraits on commission and restores marble and stone.
Badalacchi, 33, said everything about Sylacauga, from the food to the sculpting, is different from Italy.
“This is completely different from my place. The people, the traditions, the cars, the food – it’s all so different. The people here are very gentle, helpful and kind. I do love the breakfast too,” he said, noting that he frequents Huddle House near his room at Towne Inn, much like other visiting sculptors have done before him. “Breakfast in America is the best meal of the day.”
Badalacchi said he enjoys the slower pace of the festival compared to his everyday job. He said he can see Sylacauga becoming more like Pietrasanta, where marble sculpting is the main industry.
“It is a business in my area, but not only for sculpting but tourism too,” Badalacchi said. “Pietrasanta now has become a really terrific city, not only for the beach, but for marble studios and quarries, for seeing carvers working, and it can be the same for Sylacauga.”
Other sculptors participating in the festival, who hail from cities across Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia, share similar sentiments about the impact of marble on Sylacauga.
“This festival is a grand opportunity for the town to bring interest to the marble industry as well as the artistic front,” said Kinzey Branham, professor of figure modeling and stone carving at the University of Georgia. “It’s growing. Marble symposiums like this you can do in Europe and Colorado, but they cost thousands of dollars, where here, they have given us stone and been very accommodating. ”
Enzo Torcoletti of St. Augustine, Fla., by way of Italy, is participating for the first time and has already recruited two friends, Robert Larson of Florida and Frank Evans of Tennessee, to return next year.
“I’m having a lot of fun and learning a lot from all the other sculptors here,” Torcoletti said. “It’s always good to meet other people who do the same thing as you.”
Buses of schoolchildren were in and out of Blue Bell Park all day Friday as students interacted with sculptors and did some sculpting themselves. Brahman said the educational value of the festival is huge for children and adults alike.
“It’s incredible on a lot of levels,” he said. “These kids are so interested in what is going on here. We give them a chisel and let them whack on the stone and see what it feels like, and that’s the type of experience that can change people’s lives. You might plant a seed that will evolve into something.”
For the first time in the festival’s history, sculptures by the participating artists are available for sale at B.B. Comer Library. Most of the roughly 40 pieces are made of Sylacauga marble, ranging in price from $55 to $7,000.
Resident sculptor Craigger Browne said area residents are encouraged to look at their work and watch sculptors in action at the park. They will be at work during the weekend and through next week.
“People who come will see how truly beautiful this marble is,” he said. “We are here to be bothered and to be asked questions, so don’t hesitate to interrupt.”
Browne also invites citizens to watch the Sylacauga marble episode of “Discovering Alabama” on Alabama Public Broadcasting airing Sunday at noon and 6 p.m. and four other times this month.
For a complete schedule of Marble Festival events, visit http://www.bbcomerlibrary.net/marblefestival.
Contact Emily McLain at email@example.com.
Previously on Art is Life: