Settling into the Sculpture Studios

While most of our eyes were watching the solar eclipse, Fleisher teaching artist Chris Smith was hard at work in the casting studio where he is working on cleaning and restoring a maquette of Wheeler Williams’ 1942 Settling of the Seaboard.

Williams’ work, which was commissioned for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive after the 2nd Sculpture International in 1940, celebrates the earliest settlers of the United States. In addition to his training as a sculptor, Williams received a master of architecture degree from Harvard and studied at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts. He created numerous works in the public eye for everything from bridges to post offices.

The relief, checking in at 12 feet high by 17 feet long, bears the images a young man, an infant, a Native American, and a young woman making a dramatic sweeping gesture toward the distance. While it has been called a “somewhat conventional statement,” the work is the only piece in the memorial’s original commissions that represents Native Americans. Today, it sits alongside works by Henry Kreis, Harry Rosin, and Erwin Frey.

A gift from the Association for Public Art, the maquette will find a permanent home at Fleisher once Chris completes his work. It will largely serve as a teaching tool for sculpture students, but Chris is also working with the staff to create a Sanctuary Series event detailing Williams’ life and work as well as the process for creating a large public sculpture. Additional details will be available on Fleisher’s online events calendar shortly.

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