Center of attention

Elena Mutinelli proved to be the center of attention at the mayor’s reception Wednesday, with numerous people stopping to ask for photos with the well-known sculptor.

SYLACAUGA – The city of Sylacauga took a break from marble sculpting Wednesday to celebrate the visiting sculptors who have made the 7th annual Sylacauga Magic of Marble Festival so special this year.

The city did so with a mayor’s reception, which took place at the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce. It proved an extravagant affair, as representatives from throughout the community arrived to speak with sculptors who for weeks have been the center of attention and curiosity.

Thirty-two sculptors attended this year’s festival, more than any year prior. They came from all across the state and country, from Brazil and, of course, Italy.

For Ted Spears, chairman of the Marble Festival Committee, it was an incredible display of unique talent and a mark of how far the festival has progressed.

“I think it’s truly marvelous,” Spears said. “Because when we started seven years ago, we didn’t even know any sculptors. ... We just thought it was amazing, because we never had more than 23.”

This year’s group of sculptors – some of whom have participated in the festival before – represent to Spears the greatest overall pool of talent that has ever graced the festival.

Chamber President Mike Landers shared similar sentiments on the accumulation of talent that found itself in Sylacauga.

And while their presence was certainly appreciated, it indicated the city’s quality marble and its commitment to use it as one of Sylacauga’s most identifiable traits.

“What we know is that we wouldn’t have this accumulation of talent if we didn’t have this wonderful stone here,” Landers said. “And as we’ve known better for 100 years … this is truly the way to identify and market Sylacauga.”

One sculptor, Lisa Harrison, described the opportunity to work with well-known sculptors from across the world as “incredible.” Harrison, who is participating in her second Marble Festival, said her experience this year has been wonderful.

“It’s a warm environment,” she said. “It’s a place for sculptors to share and learn and just to experience. It’s just international.”

One of the most well-known sculptors in attendance was Elena Mutinelli, who traveled from sister city Pietrasanta to participate.

Speaking in rapid Italian, Mutinelli lauded Ted and Shirley Spears for their hand in creating the festival, as well as the city of Sylacauga for its hospitality and desire to continue using its most valued product to further itself.

While Mutinelli expressed surprise at being the center of attention in Sylacauga, she said the ability to tackle a sculpture without the same pressure from home – and with greater speed – has been a great pleasure.

That, coupled with the sense of camaraderie developed among the festival’s other sculptors, has made the festival stand out to her.

“I am sure,” Mutinelli said, “that the Marble Festival will be a long-lasting one.”