Charlottesville to Recognize Vinegar Hill with Sculpture

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April 20, 2012

Nationally renowned artists spent Friday in Charlottesville to meet locals and share their ideas on how to remember Vinegar Hill, an African-American neighborhood lost to urbanization in the 1960s.

Today, Ridge-McIntire runs through the neighborhood that was once Vinegar Hill.

"To add insult to injury, it was left as a grassy field for 15 years," said Elizabeth Breeden, a member of the action team for Charlotetsville's Dialogue on Race and a board member of the Jefferson School Foundation.

As part of the Dialogue on Race, a sculpture will overlook the neighborhood to recognize its people and its place in history.

"Urbanization and its consequences is a 20th century phenomena all over the world," said Melvin Edwards, one of four sculptors in the running to create the public art.

Edwards joined the other sculptures -- Preston Jackson, Lorenzo Pace and Rodney Leon -- in meeting locals at Burley Middle School on Friday night.

"The problems that are particular to this place, you'll find variations of them in Houston, where I grew up, or Dayton, Ohio, where I lived," Edwards said.

"We've asked for a monument not a memorial," Breeden said. "A memorial is about things that have died. A monument is about the ideas that were a piece of that."

The ideas from Vinegar Hill represent a universal story that has local context.

"I'm not interested in history being hidden," Edwards said. "You put it under a basket and the basket rots."

When the sculpture is finished, it will sit on the property of the Jefferson School, where it will overlook the lost neighborhood.

"We're telling something more important because it's a continuous story that we need to add to, we need to use as a reference point," Breeden said.

The sculpture is the first commissioned by the city since 1926.

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