Fraternity uses arts for philanthropy

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October 6, 2009

12:47 AM

Over the course of the three-day parents weekend, students shared pieces of their college lifestyles at the College of William and Mary with visiting families. While some chose to listen to an a cappella performance or attend the football game against Deleware, a few students shared a special occasion in a place of tradition. On Saturday, Sept. 26, students and families witnessed the unveiling of a new painting of the Sir Christopher Wren Building by Gary Casteel. President Taylor Reveley attended the short ceremony at the William and Mary Meets the Arts event, which was followed by a reception on the Wren portico.

The unveiling is the first parts of philanthropic initiative of the Delta Chi fraternity. The project attempts to raise money by selling prints and notecards of Casteel’s painting. Casteel, a nationally recognized historical sculptor and painter, is the artist at the center of Delta Chi’s largest fundraiser. The Wren Building painting is the first in a four-painting series that comprise the fundraiser. Each painting will feature a campus landmark.

“I transferred from Virginia Military Institute, and when I was there my brother did a fundraiser for the senior class,” Eric Nold ’10 said. “My brother Troy actually did something very similar only it was of the Barracks, a noble landmark on campus.”

Nold proposed the idea to his stepfather and artist Gary Casteel. Once the idea was proposed, Casteel agreed to donate his art for the benefit of the College and Delta Chi’s philanthropies.

“He proposed the project to me, and I immediately recognized the good that would come of it,” Casteel said. Nold worked closely with him to organize the fundraiser.

All of the proceeds, excluding 10 percent for administrative fees — such as fees for selling merchandise through the gift shop, organizing the unveiling, etc. — will be redistributed amongst the beneficiaries of the Delta Chi philanthropic effort.

“Of the money raised, 50 percent will be donated to the Fund for William and Mary, 40 percent will be donated to the V Foundation for Cancer Research — Delta Chi’s nationally preferred charity — and 10 percent will go toward Delta Chi’s operational costs to help pay for projects such as this, especially since this is a four-year project,” Delta Chi Philanthropy Chair David Sherman ’12 said.

This project differs from other philanthropies because so much of the proceeds go directly back to the College instead of to a national philanthropic organization.

“This fundraiser is really an opportunity for us to give back to the College,” Delta Chi President Alex Guzman ’11 said. “This school has done so much for us individually and as a fraternity, and there’s no better way for us to raise money for a cause that benefits all of us and thousands of others whose lives are shaped here at the College.”

The fundraiser itself is rather intricate. Casteel has agreed to paint four paintings over the span of four years, choosing a different landmark on campus each year as the subject of the painting. This year, Lord Botetourt side of the Wren Building was selected.

“It’s a very unique project,” Nold said. “We worked a long time on it. We hope the alumni who come back to parents are able to see it and purchase it sometime in the future.

High-quality prints of the paintings, offered in framed and non-framed options, will be available for order after fall break in the Alumni House Gift Shop, located on the first floor of the Alumni House. They will also soon be available online at Valleyartspublishing.com. In addition to the prints, packs of six notecards that feature the painting on the front will also be sold. Overall, it is a very generous agreement on the part of Casteel who, like most professional artists, would usually profit from the sale of his painting-related merchandise.

“We were able to get the deal in which he’s willing to sell prints to us wholesale,” Nold said. “We can sell the print for what it would normally cost.”

Aside from what it means for the philanthropic goals of the fraternity, the fundraiser also symbolizes a milestone for the relatively new chapter, which began colonizing in 2003 and received its charter in 2005. Since then, Delta Chi has been growing and expects to reach about 36 members for this semester.

“The thing with Delta Chi is that … we’re small, and once membership sunk to about seven members,” Sherman said. “We built back up, but during that time we didn’t really have enough members to sustain philanthropy.”

The fraternity hopes the fundraiser will be successful due to Casteel’s recognition as a sculptor and painter who specializes in life-sized historical sculptures. Among many other accolades, he was honored by the National Civil War Memorial Commission with an invitation to design and sculpt the Civil War Memorial that is set to be unveiled in May 2011, according to his website.

“It is really amazing to see Gary work,” Nold said. “He’s got the classical music going, and he’s just hacking at the ball of clay. Then you get to see the final project, and what was once clay is now bronze, and it’s just amazing.

The four paintings will likely be part of a series that portray the four seasons of the College, according to Casteel. The Wren Building was painted as it is seen in the springtime, since the building is hidden by the leaves of surrounding trees during the fall. The next scene will be the Crim Dell which, Casteel said will be the most challenging because of the dimension added by the water. This scene will probably be portrayed in fall and will be unveiled this spring. The next one will most likely be a summertime subject of the Sunken Garden, decided upon between the fraternity, the Alumni Association and the Alumni House Gift Shop manager.

Casteel has aimed to dedicate his life to history and its preservation. This fundraiser is just another way he has shown his commitment to that cause.

“As a historical artist, I readily accept a challenge to represent a ‘vision of history’ in paint or bronze,” Casteel said. “What is more important than our heritage? Some would say the future. But as a civilization, [not] knowing where you came from can only mean you will stumble over the same stones on the road you once trod.”

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