Former Virginia First Lady Lisa Collis speaks at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial Unveiling ceremony. After a series of speakers, who mostly kept their remarks mercifully brief in the morning’s heat, Gov. Tim Kaine pulled away the sculpture’s covering. Thus, the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial was unveiled before an adoring crowd at Capitol Square on Mon., […]
Former Virginia First Lady Lisa Collis speaks at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial Unveiling ceremony.
After a series of speakers, who mostly kept their remarks mercifully brief in the morning’s heat, Gov. Tim Kaine pulled away the sculpture’s covering. Thus, the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial was unveiled before an adoring crowd at Capitol Square on Mon., July 21.
The newest monument on the grounds includes 18 bronze figures emerging from a block of granite. It sits low, on a short platform on the ground. People can touch it. Tourists and pilgrims can stand beside the figures to pose for photos. Children can play on it. It’s OK to touch it.
After the unveiling Stanley Bleifeld’s art proved to be an instant success. People were standing next to the figures. As others lined up to congratulate him, his eyes watched the crowd interacting with his art, with his decisions.
Yes, it was good to not put the thing up high, on a big pedestal. Yes, it was right to have the block four-sided, with one of the sides devoted to the future. Yes, each vignette needed to be seen separately and as part of the entire statement. Yes, it was smart to have some of the figures emerging from the block to create motion, always a reference to the passing of time.
Yes! Art-wise, Bleifeld had hit a home run. Politicians and preachers smiled as they stood next to Bleifeld’s 18 slightly-larger-than-life bronze people. Children were drawn to it. As the artist mopped his brow, he smiled and signed autographs.
Gov. Tim Kaine about to unveil the art.
Lisa Collis, the former First Lady, who spearheaded the project from its start to its finish, looked satisfied, maybe relieved, as she accepted the thank-yous being bestowed upon her. It had been her daughter‘s question — Where‘s Rosa Parks? — that had set the whole shebang in motion.
However, with all those smiling faces baking in the sun, one politician was conspicuous by his absence — the nation’s first black governor and Richmond’s lame duck mayor, Doug Wilder.
Maybe Wilder was watching from an air-conditioned penthouse super box, but he sure wasn‘t on the platform with the other elected officials and dignitaries.
Could he have been in Fredericksburg, tending to Slave Museum matters? Could he have been in an undisclosed location having secret talks about a new baseball team in Richmond? Who knows?
Where was Mayor Wilder?
Kudos to the people Lisa Collis surrounded herself with to get this done. And, congratulations to the artist, Stanley Bleifeld.
— Word and photos by F.T. Rea