Richmond artist Paul DiPasquale has a handful of public pieces around the city, the most prominent being his Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue. He may not be the most well-known person in the city, but he was profiled in the August issue of Discover Richmond and was featured on the magazine’s cover.
The Ashe statue [slideshow] cost almost a half million dollars and put many Richmonder’s in a tizzy, fretting over details like why a tennis champion and/or black man belonged on a grand avenue dominated by Civil War heroes. We have survived, and the tribute to Ashe is still the best one we have for him in his hometown.
But DiPasquale’s art goes beyond Ashe. My favorite of his is the ‘Headman’ statue [slideshow] on Brown’s Island, commemorating the contributions of the black boatman on the James River. I like that one because I love the James and the park, and because it is rare that we honor the lives of the unnamed and unknown multitudes that help build, create and run our big cities and structures. Good for the little guy.
The statue had its own controversy, as the original fiberglass version was stolen from the downtown park and found much later shot to pieces out in Hanover County. Glad that no one treated the Ashe statue that way.
No controversy surrounded DiPasquale’s bust of Civil Rights activist and famed Richmond lawyer Oliver W. Hill in historic Jackson Ward [slideshow]. I have hope that Hill will be honored with his own monument in a more prominent location some day, but this is a worthy piece that was dedicated at least five years before Hill’s rich life ended.
DiPasquale’s work at The Diamond, ‘Connecticut’ is a fiberglass and resin composition resembles a giant Indian brave peering out over a parapet [slideshow]. It needs a new home.
Mike Kulick of Richmond.com did a Q&A with DiPasquale in 2007:
This may be a tired question for you, but given the varying subjects of your art over the years, where do you find your ideas and inspiration?
Public art, I think, is obligated to attract attention, and is also obligated to provide a story or a mark that’s worthy of paying attention to. I look for people who are not acknowledged. The Indian at The Diamond was actually done in Washington DC, to honor Native Americans in the capital of America … because there are actually no statues of Indians in our capital. I did it thinking it could go anywhere in our country, and if I could actually do this and put it on top of a building in DC, I would get national attention and I’d sell it. Which is how it got to Richmond, and coincidentally how I got to Richmond. Inspiration really comes from looking for a market need.
I think we need more public art, and Richmond has a good reputation as an art-friendly city. One of the things I love most about our town is that we have many monuments and statues honoring our great Richmonders.
I’m not a fan of the name “Flying Squirrels” for our new Double-A baseball team, but they aren’t going away and the Connecticut statue doesn’t belong on The Diamond’s concourse any longer. I hope it finds a new home where it can be appreciated and cared for well.