Tourists will Flock to See Giant Statues01.15.2008
My neighbor, Steve Hudson, thinks we should take down the statue of the Confederate soldier next to the courthouse in Abingdon, Va. He says that we should replace it with a statue of a tourist, complete with a camera hanging from his neck and a map in his hand. Tourism, says Steve, is what modern-day Abingdon is all about, and we should just be up-front and honest about it.
That got me to thinking about statues and the Gateway Artisan Center planned for the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College. The Center is designed to introduce tourists to the rich arts and crafts heritage of all of Southwest Virginia. I think we ought to have a garden of giant sculptures at the new Center.
The whole region has thrived on tobacco for a hundred years. We could have a 40-foot bronze tobacco plant at the Center. And, next to it, we could have the world's largest lump of coal, in bronze of course. Coal has sustained our economy for a hundred years, and people from Minnesota and Arizona ought to know that when they come driving through.
But the idea that I really like is a 40-foot statue of Bob Porterfield, modeled on the painting in the lobby of the Barter Theatre. There would be Bob, our favorite son, seated, a smile on his face, his twinkling eyes looking just a little off to the right. After all, this year is Barter's 75th anniversary.
And how about a grouping of the Carter family and the Stanley brothers, 40 feet high? Just press the button and hear that old time country music.
People driving down the Interstate would look to their right, see these 40-foot monoliths, and go, "What... the heck... is that?" They would have to get off at Exit 14 just to get a closer look.
Every father would have to snap a picture of little Johnny sitting in Bob Porterfield's lap. Of course, they would also buy a Coke, tour the artisan center, and buy some local crafts, or at least a picture postcard of the Sculpture Garden.
The wording of the flashy color brochure about the artisan center is obvious: "SEE the world's largest tobacco plant! SEE the world's largest lump of coal! SEE a local hero sitting 40-feet tall!"
And wait 'til you see the sculptures lit up at night. Awesome!
Unless the planners are totally dead, this idea should race forward of its own momentum. You'd have to redesign Exit 14 just to handle the traffic.
This is not just a good idea, friends. This is a vision!
** Copyright 2007 by Carl D. Clarke, Jr. **
CARL D. CLARKE, JR. from Abingdon, Va. is a weekly columnist for the Washington County News. He is a member of the board of directors for Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME) and the A! Magazine committee. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org