Art set in stone

When Balhannah artist Silvio Apponyi started lobbying in 2011 for funding for a biennial international sculpture symposium in the Hills, there were some in the community scratching their heads over what this event was all about and why the region should support it.

But Mr Apponyi, himself an internationally recognised sculptor, was very familiar with the symposium movement and its many cultural and economic benefits.

The symposium movement began in Europe in the late 1950s as a way of encouraging dialogue and building personal relationships between members of the international sculpture community at a time when that part of the world was in the grip of Cold War tensions.

The first symposium involved sculptors from around the world working together to create a permanent public artwork.

It was an act of creative unity and as the movement has evolved it has continued to unite sculptors and the communities in which they work.

That was certainly the case with the inaugural Adelaide Hills International Sculpture Symposium in 2012.

Once the first eight stone sculptures were commissioned by residents and business groups for Mt Barker, Hahndorf, Macclesfield, Balhannah, Lobethal and Stirling, the excitement built up to the three-week event in April.

More than 12,000 people visited The Cedars at Hahndorf to see the sculptors working on the massive stone monuments.

Once the sculptures were installed they inspired plenty of debate and attracted so many visitors that local councils were able to successfully lobby for government funds to develop the infrastructure for an Adelaide Hills Sculpture Trail.

Eight more sculptures will be added to that trail this year, widening the reach to include Langhorne Creek, Meadows, Mt Compass and Mt Torrens.

Another eight will be commissioned for the final symposium in 2016.

If the community and artist interest in this year’s event is anything to go by, there will be fierce competition for the final pieces.

Organisers have already had 50 expressions of interest from sculptors for 2016.

It’s no surprise why the event is so popular.

The sculptures are monumental and the physicality of carving the massive slabs of stone is fascinating to watch.

What communities end up with is also intriguing and extremely public.

Unlike a painting in a gallery, these sculptures are part of the public landscape.

Children crawl all over them and residents drive by them every day. Love them or loathe them they do leave an enduring cultural legacy for the region.