Friday, July 26, 2013

City backs historical marker for Walter Biggs

By Meg Hibbert

SALEM – Someday soon, there may be a Virginia historical marker at the corner of Boulevard and Second street, noting the former home of Salem’s most famous artist, the late illustrator Walter Biggs.

At their July 22 work session before the council meeting, members of Salem City Council informally endorsed a proposal by retired state employee Don Gunter who spearheading a move for a Historical Marker for a marker to honor Biggs.

Detail of one of Walter Biggs' paintings.

Detail of one of Walter Biggs’ paintings.

The application has to go before the Virginia Board of Historic Resources for approval. If approved, the $1,500 cost would be paid in thirds by the city, Roanoke College and the Salem Museum. The latter two own a number of Biggs’ paintings and have held a number of retrospective exhibitions.

Biggs’ paintings illustrated the covers of novels, short fiction and were in art expositions. He was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1963, five years before his death in 1968.

Walter Joseph Biggs was born in 1886 in Montgomery County but grew up in Salem in one of the houses that faces the grassy triangle at Boulevard and Second now marked by a Howitzer. He studied with famous instructors at the new York School of Art where his classmates included artists Edward Hopper and George Bellows. Norman Rockwell praised Biggs for his “brilliant and Poetic” application of color.

In other matters, Salem Council set Aug. 5 as a public meeting – not a public hearing – for citizens to make comments about Comcast cable television and broadband services. That council meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Salem High School.

Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess informed council another public hearing was not necessary for council to approve a new franchise agreement with Comcast, because a massive public hearing was held two years ago before the existing franchise agreement expired, but no action taken at that time.

Since then, Comcast has been operating without a current franchise agreement. After the city and the Maryland-based company resumed talks, Salem City Council at a work session in June came to consensus that Comcast had met most of the points the city had asked, as far as upgrading the system and discussing keeping a local office in Salem.

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