West Kelowna sculptor shares his talents with Belize

After Jock Hildebrand bought property in Belize two years ago he fell in love with the Central American country.

West Kelowna sculptor Jock Hildebrand focuses while working on a project. Hildebrand is preparing to go to Belize to participate in the country’s inaugural International Sculpture Symposium

After Jock Hildebrand bought property and built a small cabin in Belize two years ago, he fell in love with the Central American country.

This led Hildebrand to show affection the best way he knows how—through the art of sculpting.

The West Kelowna artist came across the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), an organization created by the government of Belize in 2003 to bring together diverse government departments, which had historically worked to preserve and promote Belizean culture.

Hildebrand tracked down the president of NICH and spoke to him about the possibility of initiating a few projects.

One of these ideas was to create an International Sculpture Symposium. The president and members of NICH liked what they heard.

“It really captured their imagination. With the 30th anniversary of (Belize’s) independence coming up, they thought it would be a good flagship project to attract some international attention,” said Hildebrand.

Hildebrand and NICH began working together to determine what the project would look like.

They decided that the symposium, which runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10, will explore the role of young Belizean people who are responsible for the new Belize.

Young Belizean artists will be encouraged to work alongside professional international artists to facilitate exposure to cross-cultural sculptural themes and techniques, while encouraging the development of a Belizean sculptural identity.

The international artists joining Hildebrand will be: Colin Figue from the United Kingdom, Roland Mayer from Germany, Petre Petrov from Bulgaria, Caroline Ramersdorfer from Austria, Canan Somnerzdag from Turkey and Florin Strejac from Romania.

According to Hildebrand, these world-class sculptors will act as mentors for the young Belizean artists.

“Belize does not have a history of stone carving. What we’re doing is we’re taking a couple of sculptors who have been working with wood for quite a long time and introducing them to carving stone. Each of us involved in the project will be taking on two assistants.”

Hildebrand is also planning on going to Belize a week early to give stone carving lessons to the local artists so that they have a bit of practise before the symposium.

According to Hildebrand, it can be challenging making the switch from carving wood to carving stone.

“When you’re moving from one medium to another, it’s really great to have somebody who has lots of experience to show you a little shortcut that’s going to reduce your time by hours.”

Narrowing down the field of international sculptors was no easy task.

“We did a call and we ended up with 60 or 70 sculptors who wanted to participate. Then my wife, a friend and I reduced the number down to 20. The final pick was made by NICH.”

Hildebrand said that the NICH looked at the artists’ experience and familiarity with stone carving when deciding who would participate in the symposium.

Another project that Hildebrand will work on while in Belize is the creation of a sculpture for the main roundabout in Belize City.

“I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be until I go and take a look at the stone that I get. I have several ideas floating around in my head, but I’ll wait until I take a look at the stone to see which one is going to be most appropriate.”

Hildebrand is optimistic that the International Sculpture Symposium can be more than a one time event.

“I think the possibility of making it an ongoing thing is good,” he said.

“They’re very excited about getting their local sculptors to (work on) more monumental size pieces. There are several good stone quarries there so they can carve marble or granite that’s from Belize, which is very good material.

“It’s a big investment for a small country like this, in terms of putting the arts forward.”