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Program by noted sculptor to be held in conjunction with unveiling of Civil War sword display


Nationally recognized sculptor Gary Casteel will present a talk to the Wheeling Area Historical Society at West Virginia Independence Hall (WVIH) in Wheeling on Monday, July 12, at 7 p.m. The program, which is free and open to the public, will be held in conjunction with the unveiling of a Civil War sword to be displayed at WVIH.

Casteel, who is a native of Kingwood, will explain the process of creating a sculpture using his General James Longstreet Memorial at Gettysburg, Pa., as a case study. He will discuss how he was selected to sculpt the memorial, the research he conducted, the history of equestrian monuments and the sculpting process itself. He also will talk about the history of statuary in the United States and the preservation of monuments.

Casteel’s love of art and history took him far from the mountains of West Virginia to study with the Italian marble carvers Giovanni and Fredrico Pucci; a Spanish wood carver, Salvatore Lopez; and foundries throughout the United States, including Sheidow Bronze Corporation in Kingwood. He has received private and public commissions, and his work is in prestigious art collections throughout the country and abroad. The National Civil War Memorial Commission, a Pennsylvania-based non-profit corporation, has commissioned Casteel to create a bronze and stone memorial depicting the complete four-year struggle.

The program is being held in conjunction with the traveling exhibition Preserving Memory: America’s Monumental Legacy, which will be on display at West Virginia Independence Hall through Aug. 15. The exhibit explores the function of outdoor sculptures in America and how they can be preserved. Featuring a series of 20 full-color panels that include nearly 200 artworks, the exhibit encourages visitors to explore the stories behind their own community’s sculpture. The first panel includes a photograph of the dedication of the West Virginia Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Memorial Day 1884. The monument is located in Wheeling Park. The exhibit is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and was developed by Save Outdoor Sculpture!, a joint program of Heritage Preservation and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The sword to be unveiled was presented to Major General Benjamin Kelley of Wheeling in July 1864 as part of the Wheeling Sanitary Fair. Visitors to the fair purchased ballots and voted for their favorite officer. Kelley defeated Major General Franz Sigel by a vote of 655 to 41 and was awarded the ceremonial sword. The money raised was used to buy medical supplies for wounded soldiers. The sword is part of the West Virginia State Museum collection.

For more information about the July 12 talk, call Gerry Reilly at (304) 238-1300.

West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is owned and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of major holidays, and is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling. The facility is closed on Sundays in January and February.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Ginny Painter
Deputy Commissioner/Communications Manager
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV 25305
Phone (304) 558-0220, ext. 120
Fax (304) 558-2779