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By Karen Hendricks, Gettysburg Festival PR/Marketing Director

How many of you are making “bucket lists” these days?  It seems like a popular topic for discussion, and it’s always fascinating to hear what sorts of activities and travel ideas pop up on these “lists of a lifetime.”

One of the trends I’ve noticed is that people often tend to list those iconic travel destinations such as the Statue of Liberty.  In New York City recently, our family felt compelled to visit Ground Zero.  The millions of tourists flocking to Gettysburg every year are drawn by the site of the Civil War’s most pivotal battle.  Plenty of western U.S. destinations are making bucket lists:  the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Mount Rushmore.

"The Presidents of Mount Rushmore"

Here at Gettysburg Festival, we’re gearing up for an amazing theater presentation at the June Festival titled “The Presidents of Mount Rushmore.”  We are thrilled to welcome perhaps the top four presidential portrayers in the entire country, bringing memorialized Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt to life.  These four extremely talented and knowledgeable men will send shivers down spines as they are “reincarnated” on the stage of the Majestic Theater to talk about their roles in U.S. history, their views on the Constitution and much more.  The audience will even have the chance to ask questions of these iconic American presidents.  For more on this June 17 event, including ticketing links, click here.

The creation of Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a colorful tale.  Standing 5,725 feet high, Mount Rushmore was named in 1885 for New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore.  Historican Doane Robinson of South Dakota is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills in order to attract tourism. It was sculptor Gutzon Borglum who chose the four presidents as subjects because he said they represented the first 150 years of American history.  His plan was to immortalize their likenesses as close to heaven as possible, holding them up as fine examples of leaders.

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”  -Sculptor Gutzon Borglum 

Jim Foote as Theodore Roosevelt

The actual work began on October 4, 1927.  It was fourteen years later, and after many funding challenges, that the monument was completed in 1941.  It took a combined workforce of 400  men to complete the task. Today nearly three million visitors visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial annually.

According to the National Park Service’s website:

  • Washington, being our first president, represents the BIRTH of our country.
  • Jefferson symbolizes the EXPANSION of the nation, being credited with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Lincoln embodies the PRESERVATION of the nation in confronting the challenges of the Civil War.
  • Theodore Roosevelt represents the DEVELOPMENT of our country. He promoted construction of the Panama Canal.

Mount Rushmore, one of the largest forms of artwork in the entire world, was creating using an amazing system.  Borglum familiarized himself with life masks, painting, photographs and descriptions of the four presidents. He then created multiple models at a ratio of 1:12 which his workmen could use as guides. One inch on the model equaled one foot on the mountain.  Using the ratio guidelines, the workmen were able to determine how much rock to remove and where.  In fact, 90% of the heads were carved with dynamite.

Having an appreciation for the creation of this majestic monument, and the presidents it immortalizes certainly places it on my bucket list.  I hope to reach South Dakota one day, but in the meantime, I look forward to “meeting” the four presidents at Gettysburg Festival this June.  What better place to present “The Presidents of Mount Rushmore” than Gettysburg–gathering America’s most treasured icons of history in one of her most historic places.  Why not join us on June 17 and check a few items off your bucket list?

Dean Malissa as George Washington

"Tomorrow...We Must Attack Him" by Dale Gallon

By Miriam Grinberg, Visual Arts Intern

Continuing our look at historical art, and the stories behind the artwork:

An oil painting by local artist Dale Gallon of Gallon Historical Art , titled “Tomorrow…We Must Attack Him,” shows a tense moment–a conversation between Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Liet. James Longstreet on July 1, 1863. According to Gallon, in this scene on the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary west of Gettysburg, Lee listens to Longstreet’s arguments to move away from Gettysburg.  Lee’s mind, however, was already made up.  Gesturing emphatically, he stated, “If the enemy is there tomorrow, we must attack him.” Gallon’s prolific 31 year career has produced many masterworks such as this piece, which, like Lindenberger’s, shows a quiet but nonetheless seething moment of tension before the battle of Gettysburg was to take place. The antipating expressions on the faces of the soldiers in the background amplifies these feeling of uncertainty, and even fear, of what is next.

"Lincoln 142: Last Best Hope" by Wendy Allen

From Lee to Lincoln, our next preview focuses on a painting by another Gettysburg resident artist, Wendy Allen of Lincoln into Art Gallery. The gallery features many of Allen’s unique portraits of the 16th president, whose face represents to Allen “humanity, wisdom, and moral courage.” After a wonderful showing at last year’s Festival, Allen returns with new pieces like this one, “Lincoln 142: Last Best Hope,” remaining true to her style of experimentation with brushes, fingerpainting, and colors in her works. The painting’s subtitle comes from the last paragraph of Lincoln’s Annual Message to Congress, delivered on December 1, 1862, in which he emphasized his commitment to freeing the slaves in the South.  “In giving freedom to the slave,” he wrote, “we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” Through her piece, Allen hopes that we may “remind ourselves that freedom is elusive and a work-in-progress.”

"Dreams of Home" by John Weiss

Last but not least, artist John Weiss from Lord Nelson’s Gallery, known for his paintings of man’s best friend, displays a side of battle rarely seen. In his work “Dreams of Home,” Weiss creates a moving portrait of a confederate soldier connecting to “memories and places he holds dear to his heart” through the comfort of holding this dog. This painting is truly a testament to the power that common images have to connect us to the past; we can easily see ourselves in his place, our pets acting as steadfast friends in times of distress. It also brings home the heartbreak and homesickness of war, as we see the soldier escape from the battlefield in his mind and return to his friends and loved ones far removed from him.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see these fabulous pieces in person, along with the artists who created them, and much more, at this year’s History Meets the Arts.

History Meets the Arts kicks off Thursday, June 16 with the ticketed Edible Art Tour from 5-8 pm. All History Meets the Arts events continue on Friday and Saturday, June 17-18, with free admission to participating galleries.

By Miriam Grinberg, Visual Arts Intern

As a senior at Gettysburg College, I’ve walked through the battlefields of “the most famous small town in America” countless times. Each time I’ve tried to imagine how this quaint little Central Pennsylvanian locale became the site of the Civil War’s most famous battle, but I have always found it difficult to visualize the images of war strewn throughout such tranquil sites as Little Round Top, Seminary Hill, or even the College itself. The national park is littered with monuments to famous Civil War heroes and regiments, but these stationary statues give little insight into the scenes of war.

It has been the task of many artists in the years since the Civil War to take up this job of bringing the War to life for modern audiences, and the Festival honors this tradition by featuring a number of well-renowned historical artists and artisans in its 2011 History Meets the Arts lineup. Known as “the largest gathering of historical artists in the country,” Festival attendees will be able to enjoy downtown Gettysburg gallery exhibits featuring works by artists such as Dale Gallon, Amy Lindenberger, Keith Rocco, Wendy Allen, John Weiss, and many more. Special exhibits, live demonstrations, and talks with the artists are also included, giving attendees the opportunity to meet the artists and gain insight into their creative processes.

"The Devil's Den" by Keith Rocco

Many of these events will feature art which specifically focuses on the Civil War period, whether depicting full-blown battle scenes, discussions between generals, or quiet moments in the soldiers’ encampments. As this year’s Visual Arts intern for the Festival, I have had the unique opportunity to see new work from all the artists for this year’s HMTA ahead of the events themselves, and I wanted to share some of the images I have received from the participating galleries here to give everyone a glimpse of what’s in store for the weekend of Thursday, June 16 to Saturday, June 18, 2011.

The first piece that I would like to showcase is one by the Brafferton Inn‘s resident artist, Keith Rocco, entitled “The Devil’s Den” (the Inn is located on 44 York Street). His piece shows the fierce fighting taking place on July 2, 1863 near the formation of huge, ancient boulders known as “Devil’s Den” near Big and Little Round Top. When I first saw this painting, I was immediately struck not only by Rocco’s fastidious attention to detail, but also the vividness and immediacy with which he portrays the battle. The sweat, blood and distress that the soldiers are experiencing in that one moment comes across in a way that it never could from battlefield tours alone. (For more of Mr. Rocco’s works, visit his official website.)

"A Ransom for Gettysburg" by Amy Lindenberger

Leaving the battlefield, the second piece showcased in this blog is a unique colored-pencil work by local artist Amy Lindenberger, owner of the downtown Civil War Fine Art gallery on 333 Baltimore Street (link). Entitled “A Ransom for Gettysburg,” this painting depicts the arrival of Confederate general Jubal Early in Gettysburg on June 26, 1863. The “ransom” in the title comes from the demands Early and his troops would make on local towns as they passed through (including Gettysburg), “instilling uneasiness into the local population,” according to Lindenberger. The uneasiness and tension are amply evident in the piece; there are few people on the streets welcoming Early’s arrival, spectators standing gloomily in the background as the Confederates advance through an empty Baltimore Street. Though little of the vim and vigor of battle is present, the stresses on townspeople of shouldering the burden of such battles is amply demonstrated in Lindenberger’s piece.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog, featuring more exquisite Civil War-themed pieces from our featured History Meets the Arts participants!

For any questions, comments or concerns regarding this year’s History Meets the Arts participating galleries, artists, or special events, please visit the Gettysburg Festival website or call us at (717) 334-0853.