Work continues on Wilmington's US Colored Troops sculpture modeled from Civil War soldier
By HUNTER INGRAM | Star-News | Published: February 18, 2021
WILMINGTON, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — When
From the beginning, it was about remembering the faces of the men history has too often forgotten.
The USCT regiments, officially formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, were made up primarily of
But they bravely stood firm in this opportunity to prove themselves as good soldiers and good citizens, especially in the final stages of the Union's campaign to capture
During the battle, USCT regiments bore the brunt of the action and took most of the casualties. It's on this site, now home to the
He wanted to locate descendants of the USCT and present-day reenactors of the regiments to serve as models for the 11 men who will be featured in the forward marching work. Through a physical casting process of their faces, he wanted to incorporate the men who carry on the torch of the USCT in what will be the first figurative sculpture of African-Americans in
"I feel it is important to have people be a part of the process," Hayes said. "I want this work to give the community a new idea of what monuments could look like and feel like. Pulling these faces from people, some of who descended from the
As of February, the nine of the 11 figures have been sent to
Hayes said his mixed-media creations of the men will be made into a rubber mold, then a plaster mold and then a wax mold. From there, a ceramic shell is made, into which the liquid bronze will be poured.
He delivered the first nine figures to the company last March, the day before it closed up operations for COVID-19. He was also out of his studio at
The final two figures will be handed over in March to begin the bronze process.
With those delays, the museum pushed the unveiling back a full year to
With the finish line quickly approaching, Hayes is pleased with the work even if COVID-19 has disjointed the process.
"There have been so many breaks where I've not been in the studio because of COVID-19," Hayes said. "But it is coming down to the end and I am happy."
The incorporation of USCT descendants and re-enactors became a priority for the
During that marathon session, CAM deputy director
In addition to the castings, the museum has been working to sift through hand-written historic military records of no less 5,000 names of men who served with the
Allen said it is tedious but rewarding work because she didn't know anything about the
"I come from a family veterans," she said. "My father was a veteran, my uncles were veterans and my husband is a
Like all those involved, Allen is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Hayes' work this fall after what will then be several years of research, fundraising, unexpected delays and continuously impressive results.
"Stephen just amazes me," she said. "One time I asked him what other mediums he works in and he said he can make anything out of anything I put my hands on. That is a true artist for you."
The sculpture is also a tribute to CAM's long-standing relationship with USCT reenactor regiments, having started commemorating their efforts at the Battle of
After landing the grant to commission the sculpture after Hurricane Florence in 2018, Wilson said the opportunity spoke to the peculiar position it is in at the cross roads of art-focused mission and the historic nature of its grounds.
"We have always known we are in this odd position as an art museum to also be the stewards of a historic site that has this extraordinary story," she said. "We hope this sculpture sparks dialogue and unites us and our common history. We want it to give agency and inspiration to young people who can see their faces represented in it."