If the number of bronze sculptures in a town says something about its pride, Morgantown became a much prouder place in 2016. It also became far more aware of sculptor, artist, and musician Jamie Lester.
A native of southern West Virginia, Lester showed artistic talent even as a kid. He studied art at WVU, eventually finding his home in sculpture. After college he worked with the Sheidow Bronze foundry in Kingwood, where he made reliefs for display in prominent places like the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida, and Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
His winning New River Gorge Bridge design for the 2005 West Virginia quarter led to his first large-scale bronze commission, the Jerry West statue—a year-long project unveiled at the WVU Coliseum in 2007.
Lester’s establishment of Vandalia Bronze with business partner Jeff Edwards in 2012 gave him a platform for promoting his work, and that contributed to his strong 2016 in Morgantown. It started in February with the installation of his statue of basketball great “Hot Rod” Hundley at the Blue Gate of the WVU Coliseum, across from the Jerry West statue. In June, his sculpture of Morgantown founder Zackquill Morgan was unveiled in front of the Public Service Building on Spruce Street. And, in July, his representation of beloved native comedic actor Don Knotts took its place before the Metropolitan Theatre on High Street.
Lester continues to work in both two and three dimensions and is an annual participant in Morgantown’s fall Arts Walk. He’s also a musician and tries to find time to practice and perform. “Morgantown is full of great painters, printmakers, and potters,” he says. He encourages residents to support the arts. “The risk is minimal when you’re buying art. Be willing to take the risk—trust your heart.” — PK