A! Magazine for the Arts

Painted fiberglass wolves, similar to this one, will be placed throughout the town.

Painted fiberglass wolves, similar to this one, will be placed throughout the town.

A "Howling' Promotion: Wolf Sculptures to Reflect Abingdon's Heritage

April 6, 2009

*** Published: April 5, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***

ABINGDON, Va. – Norfolk has its mermaids – big statues of the mythical creatures – standing around the coastal seaside city in Virginia. Likewise, barbecue capital Lexington, N.C., boasts likenesses of pigs around town.

Now, Abingdon is slated to have its wolves – two dozen fiberglass wolves, painted and perched as symbols of the area's heritage on the colonial-era frontier.

Leaders of Advance Abingdon – the town's recently formed Main Street organization – now have plans to celebrate the history of the town's earliest days.

Along the way, Advance Abingdon wants wolves to raise money for its organization, which aims to promote and preserve the downtown business corridor between Academy Drive and Deadmore Street.

The story goes, in 1760, that famed frontiersman Daniel Boone roamed the path of what is now Plumb Alley. Here, a pack of wolves chased Boone's dogs away from the cave that now sits below the Cave House Craft Shop on Main Street. Boone, according to tradition, named this place "Wolf Hills."


Advance Abingdon's Gary Kimbrell, the organization's president, invented the idea to erect wolf statues across town.

In partnership with Barter Theatre and William King Regional Arts Center, the organization's leaders have since secured sponsorships equaling $500 for each of the 20 full-size, 47-inch-long wolf models and $300 for four 18-inch-high pups.

So far, Kimbrell said, sponsorships have come in from Barter Theatre, the Washington County Public Library and the Town of Abingdon, as well as businesses including Zazzy'z Cafe and the Pop Ellis Soda Shoppe and Grill.

Now, the group is searching for artists to voluntarily paint a design on a wolf and have it displayed for four months at places like the lawn of the Fields-Penn House, a museum operated by the WKRAC.

"We really want to see a vibrant downtown," said Lemont Dobson, the executive director of the WKRAC.

And, from the arts center's perspective, said Adam Justice, the center's curator of fine art, "We really want to drive home the importance that we have a very rich artistic community."


Designs must be an artist's original idea or, if working with a sponsor, a mutually acceptable idea, Kimbrell said.

Another rule: "Designs must be tastefully done with a rating of no more than PG-13," a fact sheet says.

The designs are due to the wolf committee by April 24.

At that time, completed designs will become the property of Advance Abingdon to utilize for advertising, publicity and public sales, including T-shirts and posters, Kimbrell said.
Advance Abingdon also has plans for a plaque with the artist's name, title and sponsor to be displayed with the wolf, Kimbrell added.

"We're looking for places to put them where they're visible, but they're not blocking right-of-way public access on the sidewalks," said Courtney Bledsoe, a spokeswoman for Barter Theatre.

Hopefully, Kimbrell said, all wolves can be auctioned on Oct. 23 at a gala, scheduled to be held in a heated tent at Stonewall Square – "The Barter Green" – near Barter Stage II on Main Street.

At that time, according to Kimbrell, the artist will be paid 10 percent of the auction price in exchange for his or her effort.

"The wolves will bring more tourists into town," Kimbrell said. "And we are hoping that this will help us demonstrate the ability to put art on Main Street – public art displays."


What: Advance Abingdon's wolf sculpture project
Where: Downtown Abingdon
For the statues: Designs and artists are wanted for the wolf statues. Deadline to submit ideas is April 24.
Upcoming event: A gala will be held on Oct. 23, 2009, at Stonewall Square to auction off the painted wolves.
Info: (276) 698-5667
Mail: Advance Abingdon, P.O. Box 1537, 335 Cummings St., Abingdon, VA 24212
E-mail: advance@abingdonva.us
Web: http://www.advanceabingdon.com