A project underway in Poultney is designed to revitalize Vermont’s rich slate history and pay tribute to the workers and the industry long uncelebrated in this state. At the same time, it will establish a gateway to downtown Poultney with the hope of increasing tourism in the area. Called “The Silent Friend Slate Project,” the name is inspired by a historic East Poultney slate business from years ago, The Silent Friend Slate Company.
Envisioned by Kerry O. Furlani, a slate sculptor with a studio in Poultney, the project is being brought to life in partnership with the Poultney Historical Society. This joint community venture will have two phases: The first is the Slate Sentinel Gateway and the second is the Slate River Historic Timeline.
This past spring, the Poultney Historical Society was awarded a Vermont Arts Council Animating Infrastructure grant of $14,480 for the Phase 1 of The Silent Friend Slate Project. President Ina Smith Johnson explains, “We’re so happy that Kerry came to us with this vision and that we were able to partner with her to win a very competitive grant. Poultney seems the perfect place for such a monument, being a stop on both the Stone Valley Byway and the new Vermont Stone Trail.”
Two large slate stones will flank the intersection of Main Street and Route 30, creating a gateway to downtown Poultney. “The scale of these stones will be slightly larger than human size and stand like sentinels, guardians of the town, inviting dialogue and offering viewers an immediate connection to the slate-rich landscape surrounding them,” says Furlani.
The carving of the Slate Sentinel Gateway has now begun. The first stone, donated and transported by Camara Slate, is temporarily located in the grassy area next to the Auto Supply store on Main Street, with the permission of owner Al Macomber. This stone pays tribute to those who have dedicated their working lives to the slate industry in Vermont.
Furlani has been hand carving an inscription on the stone for several weeks in this location, allowing the community to engage with the project. When the final touches are completed, this first Sentinel will be permanently installed on Town Hall green.
The second stone, to be donated by Taran Brothers Slate, will feature a poetic inscription to elevate the spirit of the community. It will be carved and installed on the NE corner of the intersection in the spring of 2016.
Phase II of The Silent Friend Slate Project, the Slate River Timeline, is in the preliminary stages of development and will require additional grant funding. The central feature will be a meandering ‘river of slate’ through downtown Poultney that will represent a timeline of the history of slate and its industry, with a focus on the naming of Vermont slate quarries and towns.