Carrara in Tuscany is not your typical tourist location, but it is the city known for its immense marble quarries. I loved visiting this city on my own and touring the impressive caves and marble quarries was an eye-opener to me.
Carrara is the place where Michelangelo obtained the piece of marble to create the statue of David, one of his most well-known masterpieces.
For anyone interested in learning the art of sculpting using this white marble, the opportunity is right here in Carrara at the Arco Arte Marble Sculpture School. Founded by Boutros Romhein, the school opened in 1990 and offers two-week courses in marble sculpture.
In a relaxed and pleasant environment, the courses are taught by Sculptor Boutros Romheim, who teaches sculpting techniques, both ancient and modern. The goal of this intensive course is for the sculpting student to acquire the skills needed to create art from a block of marble. Learning occurs in small groups of two or three, divided between those using hand manual techniques and those using power tools.
The school includes space for working, leisure, a kitchen, and sleeping accommodations. This arrangement affords the opportunity for the students to work and live in the same space. This experience allows them the opportunity to work late into the night hours, if desired, and encourages interaction.
Courses are held from mid-May until mid-October. Arrival and check-in is on a Sunday and the course begins on Monday. Check-out is the Sunday following the completion of the course.
A teacher is with the students from 9-12 in the mornings and from 2-5 in the afternoons. The students may work at any other hours they choose, but are limited to using hand tools during these times. The hand tools are provided by the studio. The studio also will provide pneumatic and electrical hammers, along with electro-mechanical hammers.
Included in the price of tuition is the marble itself, with a maximum weight of fifty kilograms. The students keep their finished marble works of art. Arco Arte will arrange to ship any pieces that are too large to be hand-carried or transported by car, for students who have vehicles.
Although I did not take a sculpting course myself, having no ability in that area, I interviewed Philip Obermarck who is a sculptor, visual artist, and postgraduate student. When he was working on his MFA degree at Edinburgh College of Art, part of University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland, he took the course at Arco Arte to learn the techniques of sculpting with stone. His experience at the school adds some first-hand feedback about the two-week course.
Philip indicated that he was able to complete his work of art in the two weeks allotted, and so were most of the other students in his class of five. All teaching is provided by Sculptor Boutros Romheim. At times other sculptors, who are previous students, may be inside the studio, working on long-term projects. Signor Romheim has two stonemason journeymen who assist him at times, although the teaching is by the master sculptor, Romheim, who provides personalized instruction to each student.
Accommodations are conveniently located next to the work area. Shared rooms with one or two beds are provided and single rooms are available at an additional cost. Shared facilities include bathrooms, showers, and a kitchen, where students can bring food to prepare their own meals. Meals are not provided. According to Philip, Arco Arte “is a family run operation and Boutros and his family live onsite. They have converted several buildings into rentals. There is a main kitchen in one of the buildings which all the guests (whose suites don’t have a kitchen) share. This promotes a family-like atmosphere.”
Philip continued to explain that the family-like atmosphere is enhanced by one of Boutros’s rituals. “Every day at 10am and 3pm, all work stops for coffee. Each day one of the guests will be in charge of the coffee and make espresso at these times. Everyone gathers in the kitchen to have a cup or two and take a break. It is very relaxing and also promotes that family atmosphere.” In the evenings anyone who wishes is invited to relax on the patio with Boutros and his assistants as they enjoy some beer. “Everyone at the school made me feel welcome and I would love to return there.”
Each student is expected to assist on a daily basis with the cleaning of the community space, and also their rooms at the end of the course. Each student is to provide his own insurance.