The Artist-Proactive Origin of This Project:
Sculptor Paul DiPasquale of Richmond, met Arthur Ashe in 1992. He later wrote the world champion and sought permission to create an authorized, biographical statue. If approved upon completion, the artist planned to seek funding to cast it into bronze.
The sculptor asked Mr. Ashe for his input regarding the monument’s presentation and message. Mr. Ashe called DiPasquale in early 1993 with his authorization and agreement to participate and to describe his preference on his likeness, clothes, demeanor, age, and other subjects.
Arthur Ashe died after giving his authorization and description of the statue, and before approval of the sculpture. His wife Jeanne Moutoussamy Ashe followed up on the project. She loaned the sculptor photographs and clothing of Mr. Ashe, she approved drawings and the full scale 12 foot high model, and she directed DiPasquale to the mentoring non profit organization, Virginia Heroes Incorporated for possible fund raising. Ashe’s mother, Lorene Ashe, his Aunt, Dorothy Cunningham and his brother, Captain Johnnie Ashe as well as other family members also approved the sculpture within the year following Ashe’s death.
The Private Funding:
Mrs. Marty Dummett President of Virginia Heroes and their Board Directors voted in December of 1993 to fund raise the $400,000 to complete the bronze and granite fabrication and installation of the 24 foot high monument. Mrs. Dummett became Executive Director of the project and later, Thomas Chewning, President of Dominion Resources, with Senator Benjamin Lambert became fund raising co-chairmen.
City Approval and Site Selection:
The Project was presented to Richmond’s city council appointed Arthur Ashe Memorial Committee in February of 1994 with unanimous approval. The project then moved several times through the following city councils, committees and commissions over the following year and a half: City Council under Mayor Kinney, City council under Mayor Young, Urban Design Committee, City Planning Commission and the City Public Art Commission. Mayor Young appointed two council representatives to the 12 member Site Selection Committee, chaired by Virginia Hero Member, Leonard Lambert, Esquire. Ashe’s cousin Randy Ashe served as the family representative. Monument Avenue was the site selected. This site selection was debated in a five hour internationally televised City Council Public Hearing in July 1995. Monument Avenue was selected as a site with one dissenting vote.
Installation was completed and the Monument unveiled at the rotary site at Monument Avenue and Roseneath Road on Arthur Ashe’s Birthday, July 10, 1996.
The Virginia Historical Society Ashe Model Presentation:
This Museum at Boulevard and Park Avenue in Richmond, requested and acquired the full scale model from Virginia Heroes Incorporated in June of 1996. It has been on permanent display since 1998.
Controversial Public Art Localized:
For almost two years prior to the unveiling, controversy raged from varied sources including organized resistance by a local gallery owner and art critic who had never seen the actual statue. The critic was later let go from her news paper. After the installation, the Art and Architecture critic for the Washington Post, B. Forgey wrote of DiPasquale’s work, “placing this statue of Arthur Ashe on Richmond’s Historic Monument Avenue was one of the most important things to happen in Virginia in the entire 20th century.” Since its debut, the monument has been published in books nationally and internationally and has generated one film and two Richmond PBS television documentaries.
The copy on the granite base is from the dedication in the front of Days of Grace, Ashe’s last book:
Since we are surrounded by
so great a cloud of witnesses
let us lay aside every weight, and
the sin which so easily ensnares us
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us.