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Jungle Book coming to downtown Rutland – in stone

Phoenix Books funds sculpture, honoring Vermont author Rudyard Kipling, in second of planned downtown series

Work on the first carving announced in a planned series of historical stone sculptures in downtown Rutland will begin in August - but organizers say the “second” sculpture will be completed before the first.

The second planned project, a tribute to “The Jungle Book” and famed Vermont author Rudyard Kipling, will be funded by the owners of Phoenix Books Rutland, Michael DeSanto, Renee Reiner and Tom and Tricia Huebner. The marble monument will be created by Artist in Residence Sean Williams at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center this summer. It will feature a copy of the landmark children’s book open on a bookstand, three-dimensional characters rising off the pages. The sculpture will be installed on Center Street, west of the bookstore, at a height designed to invite children’s curiosity.

DeSanto, who with his partners opened Phoenix Books Rutland in 2015 with help from more than 50 local families, said he was intrigued by plans for “Stone Legacy,” the first sculpture announced in the series. “The arts are incredibly important and can play a tremendous role in creating beauty and a sense of pride in a community,” DeSanto said. “Rutland has so much to be proud of, including its wonderful downtown, so we jumped at the opportunity to add to its character. We owe so much to Rutland, and this is a way of saying ‘thank you.’”

Tricia Huebner, who manages the Rutland store, said she and her husband were equally pleased to support the project, in part in hopes it will prompt others to step forward to support future additions to the sculpture series. “How many folks know that ‘The Jungle Book’ was written in Vermont?” Huebner asked. “Once this is complete, every person who walks down Center Street will see this fabulous piece of art and learn a little about our history. We’re hopeful these projects will multiply, accentuate the beauty of downtown Rutland, tell some of our history, and create a significant draw for locals and tourists alike.”

Williams, who has a lengthy resume of commissioned public and private art, said he was enamored with the thought of helping build community through art. “I was immediately drawn to the project and began working on clay concepts as soon as I was approached with the possibility,” Williams said. “As a Barre artist, I am thrilled that my work will stay in the Green Mountain State and help add life to a community I’ve long thought of as my city’s soulmate. Barre and Rutland have always been tied to the stone industry and the tradition of craftsmanship our forebears created.”

“The Jungle Book” project is a partnership with by Carol Driscoll of The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland and Steve Costello from Green Mountain Power and Rutland Blooms, who solicited funding from Phoenix Books Rutland. Gawet Marble and Granite Company and Green Mountain Power have provided logistical help, and Rutland Blooms will provide funding for installation.

“I’ve had a love for ‘The Jungle Book’ since I heard the album that came out with the Disney film 50 years ago, when I was 4 years old,” Costello said. “I knew Kipling wrote the original stories in Vermont, so as we thought about possible subjects and funders for the sculpture series, ‘The Jungle Book’ and Phoenix Books seemed a natural fit. Within days of floating the idea, we had their commitment to fund the project.” MKF Properties and Green Mountain Power commissioned the roughly 20-ton “Stone Legacy” sculpture as a tribute to the thousands of quarry workers, stonecutters and artists who built the stone industry in Rutland County. That sculpture is a collaboration between U.S and Italian artists and artisans at the CSSC in August, using stone donated by Vermont Quarries in Danby, Vt.

“This all started as a celebration of our 30'th anniversary, initially conceived as a one-off project,” said Driscoll, executive director of the CSSC. “As Steve, Mark and I talked about additional concepts and funding sources, it quickly became evident that we had tapped into something special, and we are already considering ideas for future sculptures to honor men and women who contributed to our history.”

Organizers plan a multi-year project that includes the addition of at least one major piece annually in downtown Rutland. The third sculpture, in the very early planning stages, is expected to feature Rutland resident Ann Story, who was a pioneer, Revolutionary War-era spy, and American hero. Other figures under consideration include “Snowflake” Bentley, Rutland’s John Deere, Norman Rockwell, Ethan Allen, Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Alexander Twilight, among others.

Foley and Driscoll had been talking about a possible project when Costello, who founded GMP’s Rutland Blooms project, visited Rapid City, S.D., last fall, where sculptures of every U.S. president have created a huge tourist draw. Rutland Blooms is a citywide beautification effort, based on volunteerism and using donations from the business community, that has planted hundreds of flowering crabapple trees over the past four years. Costello came home intent on expanding Rutland Blooms’ focus into history-based public art. After speaking with Foley, they agreed to collaborate with Driscoll on “Stone Legacy” and eventually on a series of sculptures.

“‘Stone Legacy’ and the sculptures that follow will help teach visitors and locals alike about this community and state,” Foley said. “From heroes to artists to everyday people who did extraordinary things, we want to honor those who made Rutland and Vermont the special places they are today.”