Trail History


Jesse Salisbury, Art Director SISS

The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium (SISS) was founded by Jesse Salisbury of Steuben, a well traveled sculptor seeking to spark cultural activity in his home community. A group of supporters developed sponsorships with involved communities and stone suppliers, and created the first SISS in 2007 at the Schoodic Education and Research Center campus at the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor.

Four symposia followed in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The mission of SISS was to hold international stone sculpture symposia in downeast Maine that engaged individuals and communities in public art and resulted in a large public art collection in Eastern Maine. The fifth and final event was held at Fisher Field in Prospect Harbor. The SISS organization is primary focused today on art education and helping to foster greater opportunities for international artist exchanges.

Book Project Completed in 2016

Thanks to a gift from Jeremy Strater, the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium worked with writers and designers to put together a lasting record of this project. The book helps tell the story of the five symposia and the artists that made the trail a reality. The book was completed in 2017 and is available for purchase. Visit our shop for more information.

10 Year Mission

Five Symposia took place over a ten year span, resulting in a world class collection of large granite works of art that make up the Maine Sculpture Trail.

Symposium Timeline

  • 2007

    The first symposium was held on the campus of the Schoodic Education and Research Center on Schoodic Point (SERC).  Seven sculptures were installed in sponsoring towns beginning a unique collection of public art in Downeast Maine. Artists from Maine, Sweden, Japan, Poland and Germany created sculptures for Steuben, Milbridge, Ellsworth, Southwest Harbor, Sullivan, Winter Harbor and SERC.

  • 2009

    In 2009, the symposium was held again at SERC and sculptures were made for the towns of Franklin, Gouldsboro, Machias, Lamoine, Bar Harbor, and Deer Isle/Stonington. These additions to the public art collection were  made by artists from Egypt, the Republic of Georgia,  Germany, Turkey, France and one from Maine.

  • 2011

    The third symposium in 2011 was moved to Fisher’s Field in Prospect Harbor.  The sculptures created in this third session were installed in Blue Hill,  Hancock, Eastport, Addison, Sorrento and Roque Bluffs. The sculptors selected this year came from Japan, Canada, Germany, Ohio and two from Maine.

  • 2012

    The 2012 symposium was hosted by the University of Maine. Three sculptures were installed on the UMaine campus. Additional sculptures were placed in Orono, Old Town, on the Husson University campus in Bangor, at Acadia Hospital in Bangor and on the Bangor Waterfront. Participating artists came from Maine, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

  • 2014

    SISS held its fifth and final event at Fisher Field in Prospect Harbor. Sponsoring communities inlcuded Calais, Lubec, Jonesport, Harrington, Surry, Bucksport and Castine. This brought the total number of new pieces of public art in Downeast  Maine to 34. The artists in this event came from South Korea, Switzerland, the Republic of Georgia, Washington, and Maine.

  • 2016 and Current

    The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium is working to continue to support public art activities in Maine, and to focus on the promotion of the Maine Sculpture trail.

    In 2017, the organization published a book that chronicles the decade long project.

Symposium: Maine and Beyond

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St. Margarethen, Austria, was the site of the first sculpture symposium in 1959.

The history of the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium follows the path set by the first sculpture symposium of the modern era, which was held in Austria in 1959. Since then, sculptors have been gathering at various places around the world to practice their art and to learn from each other and from the symposium setting. In addition to learning new techniques, sculptors gain valuable exposure to different concepts and other cultures. The visiting public is able to share this experience and to gain a sense of what it takes to create a sculpture. The finished work then becomes a new and permanent part of the community’s landscape. Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium fits seamlessly into this pattern. This Symposium is different in that it highlights a local stoneworking culture of historic importance, which is now all but forgotten in downeast Maine. It will be exciting to see this long lost art come to life again.

Commercial granite production in Maine began at the beginning of the 19th century. Prior to that, granite was used primarily for building foundations, roads, bridges, and marine piers. Maine quarries enjoyed a commercial advantage because of their proximity to the seacoast. This offered inexpensive transportation by ship to the entire eastern seabord. The Industrial Revolution sparked a building boom in factories, banks, churches, libraries, government offices, monuments, and bridges—and Maine granite was the building material of choice. As many as 170 Maine quarries cut and fashioned building stone. One of the largest production centers was located on Vinalhaven Island. Rough stone was brought there from many quarries to be turned into columns, capitals, monuments, etc.

The list of famous Maine granite structures is enormous. Examples include all or elements of the old State, War, Navy building (now the Executive Office Building) in Washington D.C., the Church of St. John the Divine (NYC), the Triborough Bridge (NYC), the Williamsburg Bridge (NYC), the Brooklyn Bridge (NYC), the Washington Monument (DC), several United States Naval Academy buildings (Annapolis MD), Grant’s Tomb (NYC), the Cleveland Art Museum (OH), the Chicago Art Museum (IL), Sing Sing Prison (NY) and the John F. Kennedy Memorial (DC), to name but a few.

quaries me

Old quarries in Maine often fill with water, a relic of a booming industry.

The peak of Maine granite production was 1901, when as many as 3,500 workers were employed at 152 quarries. The use of granite for buildings and bridges tapered off in the 20th century as steel and reinforced concrete changed the course of architecture and construction. Granite continues to be used today, but on a much smaller scale. In the building trades it is used primarily for building facades, counter tops and in landscape gardening. Today there are only a few working quarries in Maine that are producing dimension stone. These include the Crotch Island quarry in Stonington, Fletcher‘s quarries in Jonesboro and Addison, the Freshwater Stone Quarry in Orland, and Sullivan Memorial Stone Works‘ Quarry in Sullivan.