Connect with us
[adrotate banner="51"]

History

Kehinde Wiley Sculpture Unveiled in NYC, Heads South in December

Artist Kehinde Wiley’s monumental statue “Rumors of War” was unveiled in Times Square on Friday. The statue is Wiley’s response to the Confederate sculptures scattered throughout the South, especially in Richmond, Virginia.

Capital News Service

Published

on

By Morgan Edwards

Artist Kehinde Wiley’s monumental statue “Rumors of War” was unveiled in Times Square on Friday to an estimated 350 attendees. The statue is Wiley’s response to the Confederate sculptures scattered throughout the South, especially in Richmond, Virginia.

“This is his first attempt at a monumental sculpture, and I’d have to say he pretty much hit it out of the park,” Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director Alex Nyerges said.

The statue depicts a young African American man wearing street clothes atop a rearing horse. The body language of the subject is triumphant and confident. “Rumors of War” is closely modeled after the statue of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart found in the center of Stuart Circle along Monument Avenue in Richmond.

 According to Sean Kelly Gallery founder Sean Kelly, “Rumors of War” is 27 feet tall, and 1 foot taller than the statue of Stuart. The New York-based art gallery represents Wiley and other established artists. It co-sponsored the unveiling along with the VMFA and the Times Square Alliance.

Wiley has become known for paintings depicting African American men and women shown in classical poses. His paintings are inspired by masters from the Renaissance and Rococo eras of art but with a contemporary and political twist. In 2018 he unveiled the official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Smithsonian National Gallery, garnering worldwide attention.

Media and guests at the unveiling began gathering at 12:30 p.m. in one of the main medians of Times Square. The statue loomed large, draped in a silver cloth. People on their lunch break and other onlookers sat outside a fence surrounding the area, many stopping to ask what was going on.

  A temporary security fence formed a roughly 500-square-foot border around the statue.

After comments from Nyerges, Kelly and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Wiley stepped up to the podium to deliver a short but passionate explanation behind the process of creating “Rumors of War.”

“Let’s get this party started,” Wiley declared, and the cloth was pulled back revealing the statue to the audience.

The base of the statue was crafted from Wisconsin limestone in Wiley’s New York studio, Kelly said. The bronze used to build the statue was cast in Wiley’s Beijing studio and then shipped in three separate pieces to New York and reassembled.

  Wiley came up with the idea to create the statue during the 2016 showing of a retrospective of his work at the VMFA. Nyerges said Wiley approached the museum about collaborating on the project.

  “When they approached us the question was, ‘Would you be interested in working with us on a project like this,’ and of course the answer was an instant ‘yes,’” Nyerges said. “Then when Kehinde and Sean came back to us with some visuals and a conceptual of what it looked like, we were blown away.”

  The statue has been under construction for almost three years. Kelly said he feels overjoyed to have Wiley’s newest work completed and released.

  “The beginning of the journey is absolutely terrifying if you think about what you’re getting yourself into,” Kelly said. “Unveiling it today is like giving birth; it’s super exciting and amazing. There’s nothing but euphoria and joy at this point.”

  Stoney addressed how “Rumors of War” will fit into the ongoing conversation about the monuments on Monument Avenue. Five other statues honoring Confederates, and one statue in tribute to tennis legend Arthur Ashe, are erected along a 1.5-mile stretch of the city street. In recent years there has been considerable debate about whether to remove the monuments. The mayor established a commission to study and make recommendations on the removal or relocation of the monuments. The panel’s final report called for removal of the Jefferson Davis statue, and the addition of context to the others.

  “Our friends who worked on the Monument Avenue Commission stated that addition has to be part of the recipe for us balancing the scales in Richmond in terms of the monuments we currently have to the Lost Cause [the narrative that the Confederacy was justified in its rebellion, minimizing the role slavery played in causing the Civil War] and balancing that with heroes and sheroes from African American culture,” Stoney said.

The statue will be on temporary public display until Dec. 1 and then moved to its permanent home at the VMFA in Richmond. The public can see the statue unveiled for a second time Dec. 10 on the museum’s front lawn along Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

Comments

comments

The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Community

Results from “Lost Cause” Studio Project Survey Reveal a Richmond Eager to Confront its Past

The survey asked Richmond region residents to share their knowledge about and ongoing impact of the Lost Cause myth, their desire to learn about this complex history and how a transformed Valentine Studio can address community needs.

Avatar

Published

on

From the Valentine.

Today the Valentine released the results of a community survey, conducted in October and November of 2020.

The survey asked Richmond region residents to share their knowledge about and ongoing impact of the Lost Cause myth, their desire to learn about this complex history and how a transformed Valentine Studio (the location on the museum’s campus where sculptor Edward Valentine created many Lost Cause works) can address community needs. More than 1,000 participants, representing a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds, completed the survey.

A diverse team of historians, activists, local leaders, Valentine family members and community members developed the survey. The Valentine also held focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of the variety of opinions about the Lost Cause, the role of cultural institutions in sharing this history and the potential installation of the damaged, paint-covered Jefferson Davis statue, until recently displayed on Monument Avenue, in the space. The results of the survey and the focus groups will inform and guide the project development.

Results included:

A majority of respondents stated that they would like to see the Valentine use the reinterpreted studio to explore the history of power and policies in Jim Crow Richmond, the art and artistic processes that created Lost Cause sculptures and the history of racial oppression in Richmond.

Additionally, 65% of respondents from the Richmond region agreed that museums should acquire the monuments from Monument Avenue and display them with context. For the Valentine specifically, this reinforced our request to the City of Richmond to acquire and display the graffiti-covered Jefferson Davis statue on his back as he fell.

Additionally, focus group participants, moderated by project partner Josh Epperson, felt that using the studio to explore Lost Cause history and connect it to the present would be a valuable use of the space. Focus group participants also affirmed the Valentine’s commitment to continuing its high level of community engagement, which they expected to be critical to the success of the reimagined studio.

You can find additional survey results HERE.

“Based on the survey feedback we received from our fellow Richmonders, we are confident that this is the best next step for this space and for this institution,” said Director Bill Martin. “We look forward to providing a location where Richmonders can learn about the Lost Cause, consider Richmond and the Valentine’s early role in disseminating the damaging Lost Cause myth and ultimately gain a deeper, more nuanced, more empathetic understanding of the region we call home.”

The Valentine will continue to solicit and address community questions, comments or concerns as the Studio Project develops.

On December 31st the Washington Post had an article on the museum taking a closer look at the role that founder of Edward V. Valentine had in the lost cause.

Today, the artist’s studio is closed to visitors at the Richmond museum that bears his family name — the Valentine. But museum director Martin and others see the workshop as the center of what could be a public reckoning with the racist mythology that Valentine’s sculptures helped bring to life.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Downtown

Governor Northam announces $25 million to transform historic sites, advance “historic justice efforts”

“These are not just investments in physical space, but in the telling of our shared history,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby. “These initiatives will help us continue the effort to uncover the truth of the past.  We must finally get this right.”

RVAHub Staff

Published

on

Governor Ralph Northam late last week announced that his proposed budget will include nearly $25 million to transform historic sites and advance historic justice efforts.

“These investments will ensure a more diverse and inclusive retelling of our history,” said Governor Northam. “At a time when our Commonwealth and nation are grappling with how to illustrate a more complete picture of the past, we must work to enhance our public spaces and shine light on previously untold stories.”

This investment will include nearly $11 million to support the efforts of transforming Monument Avenue. This funding will enable the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to hire staff and launch a community-driven effort to redesign Monument Avenue.

“For too long, Richmond’s Monument Avenue told an incomplete and inaccurate story of the city and Virginia’s past,” said Alex Nyerges, Director and CEO of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “The funding to transform Monument Avenue will allow us to reenvision an inspirational, forward thinking, inclusive and healing place for everyone who lives in and visits our city and state.”

“On behalf of many neighbors – this news is exciting and hopeful. We welcome a future on Monument Avenue that includes a visual expression and experience that is welcoming and inspirational to all people,” said Monument Avenue resident Alice Massie.

Additionally, this investment includes an additional $9 million for the development of a Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site and improvements to the Slave Trail in Richmond as well as $100,000 to support the Virginia Emancipation and Freedom Monument project on Brown’s Island. This funding will support efforts to preserve the site known as the Devil’s Half-Acre, or Lumpkin’s Jail, in Shockoe Bottom as a historical site.

“Hundreds of thousands of enslaved persons were forced to pass through Lumpkin’s Jail on the Richmond Slave Trail,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “It is far past time to develop a new Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site at Lumpkin’s Jail and invest in improvements to the Slave Trail, so that this important history is not forgotten.”

“The Emancipation and Freedom Monument on Brown’s Island will commemorate the abolition of slavery and recognize numerous African American Virginians who were devoted to advancing freedom and civil rights,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan. “This funding will move this important project another step closer to becoming a reality.”

“This constitutes a massive investment in centering stories of trauma and resilience that have been sidelined by proponents of slavery, the Lost Cause, and segregation,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “The Commonwealth’s support is the tool we need to commemorate and communicate Richmond’s real history and honor unjustly silenced voices.”

This investment will also include $5 million to support Project Harmony, an environmental justice project to address the repatriation of tombstones from the former Columbian Harmony Cemetery and the creation of the Harmony Living Shoreline memorial. These headstones were removed from Columbian Harmony Cemetery––a historic African American cemetery in Washington, D.C.––and relocated in 1960 to make way for commercial development. While some headstones were moved to a new cemetery in Landover, Maryland, others were sold off by the developer, including those that were used to create a riprap along the shore of the Potomac River.

“I was horrified when I discovered the headstones from Columbian Harmony Cemetery scattered along two miles of shoreline on the Potomac. With the help of this funding, we will be able to return many of these to a better and more respectful resting place while creating a memorial to remember those that we are unable to remove,” said Senator Richard Stuart.

“These are not just investments in physical space, but in the telling of our shared history,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby. “These initiatives will help us continue the effort to uncover the truth of the past.  We must finally get this right.”

Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees today to share the full details of his budget plan.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

History

University of Richmond installs temporary signage to mark boundaries of burial ground on campus

The University of Richmond has installed signage on campus to mark the sacred space of a former burial ground for enslaved persons and describe what is known about the desecration that occurred there. The signage also details the University’s plans to more permanently acknowledge the site going forward.

RVAHub Staff

Published

on

The University of Richmond has installed signage on campus to mark the sacred space of a former burial ground for enslaved persons and describe what is known about the desecration that occurred there. The signage also details the University’s plans to more permanently acknowledge the site going forward.

The University plans to memorialize the enslaved burial ground on what is now part of the campus and the history of the land on which the University now sits, including its intersections with enslavement.

An informative sign with a QR code links to a research report by Lauranett Lee, a public historian and UR professor leading the historical research, and Shelby Driskill, a UR graduate researcher, who have explored the reported enslaved burial ground on campus. Their research has been studied in numerous classes and discussed in various open forums across campus, including as part of first-year orientation.

In January, University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher established a Burial Ground Memorialization Committee to engage a range of stakeholders in discussions. “Our story is often inspirational, but there are aspects of the past we have long ignored, including the significant history of the land on which our campus now stands,” Crutcher said.

The signage signals the burial ground’s important history,” said Crutcher. “The signage is only temporary, though, as the work of the committee will lead to the shaping of a permanent memorial.”

The committee chaired by Ed Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and President Emeritus, and Keith “Mac” McIntosh, vice president of Information Services and CIO, has held virtual meetings over several weeks to learn about the hopes of the university community for the memorialization of the Burial Ground. Burt Pinnock, a Richmond architect will help guide the efforts.

The committee is also consulting with descendants of individuals enslaved on the land to solicit their thoughts about the most appropriate memorialization.

“The signage is an important milestone on our journey,” McIntosh said. “The full and accurate history of the land we currently occupy helps us understand the people who came before us and helps us understand how we might best connect our present with our past and future.”

“We can’t connect our present to our past without a comprehensive and truthful view of our rich history,” he added.

Anyone with stories, questions, or information to share, is asked to write the committee at [email protected].

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Richmond Weather