The Lewis and Clark statue, sculpted by Charles Keck in the year 1919, stands as a symbol of a complex and rich period in American history. It is representative of a turning point in American art and thought, when artists and intellectuals grappled to find a happy medium between the abstract and the traditional. The subject of the early American pioneer belies the nostalgic mindset of Americas that had just faced the harsh realities of the First World War, and longed for the unambiguous optimistic that characterized the Colonial period. Today it has a dual function in Charlottesville’s public memory. Its portrayal of the Native American Sacagawea incites controversy and reminds us that our ideals for living in a multicultural society have changed since the early 20th century. Yet the meaning of the statue still transcends the bounds of this century to commemorate how Lewis and Clark contributed to the American narrative of history in their own time, and how what they did resonates in our image of the individualistic “American” today.

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