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Sculpture festival rocks Bergen

Repression is being carved out of 6,750 kg of stone at this year’s Bergen Rocks sculpture symposium near Sundre.
Saeid Ahmadi of Iran checks the position of the saws for the next cuts on his sandstone sculpture

Repression is being carved out of 6,750 kg of stone at this year’s Bergen Rocks sculpture symposium near Sundre.

Iranian-born, Ukraine-based sculptor Saeid Ahmadi is creating a large abstract work representing the negative emotions of stress and anguish at a sculpture park on Morton Burke’s property in Bergen.

If this is too ephemeral a concept, there are also large statues being made of a goat, a torso, a rising sun and the stylized head of an aboriginal.

Five sculptors from Germany, Iran, Canada and Thailand were chosen by Burke from 63 international applicants to create “monumental” rock carvings out of Alberta sandstone and B.C. marble at this year’s third-annual sculpture festival.

Burke said the winning submissions were chosen on the basis of diversity and family-friendly subject matter. “It was a matter of putting a fig leaf where one is required — something like that,” joked the Central Albertan who’s a stone carver himself.

While it’s not uncommon for grinders, drills and other tools of the trade to break down when put through the daily punishment of chipping heavy stone, it was Burke’s positive collegial experiences at various sculpture festivals in Europe and Asia that led him to invest in starting one in Alberta.

He resolved to mount a local festival himself after spending five years fruitlessly beating on doors to get funding or other help from corporations or government. As a result, he said “Bergen Rocks is the only sculpture symposium in the world that is organized and hosted by an artist.”

The festival is entirely funded by Burke, who buys all the raw materials needed by the artists in hope of making some of the money back if one of the sculptures is sold.

Some of the 15 heavy statues that were created since the festival’s inception in 2008 have sparked buyer interest, but none have been purchased, said Burke. If one does sell and is moved off the grounds, his idea is to invite six sculptors next year so that the same number of statues is maintained at the sculpture park on his property, which he believes could become an area tourist attraction.

“I am amazed at the talent we always get,” Burke added.

German artist Tanja Roeder, who is caving a torso at this year’s festival, is becoming very well known in Europe. Kenyan artist Gerard Motondo, who participated in the 2009 Bergen Rocks, was the gold medalist at a Beijing sculpture competition from 156 entrants.

Mohamad reza Yazdi, who is creating a large goat out of marble at this summer’s Central Alberta festival, placed third at the same Chinese competition.

The public is invited to Burke’s property in Bergen to see the artists work until the festival winds down on Saturday. The park is opened every day except Tuesday from 1 to 5 p.m. There’s a $2 admission fee.

For more information, including directions to the site, go online to