RALEIGH — The State Capitol is celebrating the February birthdays of George Washington and an Italian sculptor who paid tribute to America’s first president. This merger of art and history will address some cultural practices related to time and place including why the first president was sculpted in a skirt.
On Feb. 22 and 23, the Capitol will open an exhibit and hold two events to mark the 100th birthday of Romano Vio, the artist who lovingly recreated the Washington statue that now sits in the Capitol rotunda. The original statue was created in 1820 by another Italian, Antonio Canova, but was destroyed when the State House burned in June 1831. Vio’s version was placed at the Capitol in 1970. Mayor Nancy McFarland has declared Feb. 22 as “Romano Vio Day” in Raleigh, urging citizens to celebrate the birthday of the man who recreated one of the capital city’s earliest and most recognized pieces of public art.
At 9 a.m. on Feb. 22, the Capitol will unveil its latest exhibit, Via Vio: The Rebirth of Canova’s Washington, and co-host a ceremony marking Vio’s centennial with the Palazzo Ferro-Fini, the seat of the Veneto Regional Council in the artist’s native Italy. The simultaneous celebrations will interact online via Skype, followed by refreshments in the rotunda. The ceremony is open to the public.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, the Capitol staff will lead a children’s program, “Sculpture Alive!” from noon until 1:30 p.m. Kids (ages 4+) will learn a little about the Washington statue, sculpt a mini version to take home and dress up like the statue for a fun photo. And since no birthday party is complete without cake, participants can sing happy birthday to Vio and Washington before enjoying birthday cake. The program fee is $5 and registration is required. To register, call (919) 715-3962 or email Capitol Education Coordinator Terra Schramm.
The State Capitol’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and functions of the 1840 building and Union Square. The Capitol is bounded by Edenton, Salisbury, Morgan and Wilmington Streets. For more information, visit the State Capitol online or call (919) 733-4994.