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Local artist donates painting to WVU Libraries

By Staff | Dec 28, 2018

From left, Shepherdstown artist Diana Suttenfield stands beside West Virginia & Regional History Center Director John Cuthbert and Shepherdstown resident John Staley. Suttenfield's painting, "The Great Wagon Road as seen in the 1830s from the North Porch of Falling Spring, Shepherdstown," is behind the group, and was donated to West Virginia University Libraries in honor of Staley. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — About three years ago, West Virginia & Regional History Center Director John Cuthbert asked Shepherdstown-based artist Diana Suttenfield if she would consider donating a piece of her artwork to West Virginia University Libraries.

On Friday, Cuthbert’s request was answered, as Suttenfield met with him to donate her 2014 acrylic painting, “The Great Wagon Road as seen in the 1830s from the North Porch of Falling Spring, Shepherdstown,” in honor of Shepherdstown resident and author John Staley.

“John and I have known each other over the years, so it will be a nice thing that will be coming about. John and I have worked on projects together before, so it’s being donated in his name to the library,” Suttenfield said, mentioning she had talked with Staley about Cuthbert’s request before she decided to donate the painting in his honor. “John Staley and I were talking about it, and John, being a [WVU] alumnus and published author by their press, it seemed like a nice thing to do.”

According to Suttenfield, Staley approved of her donation choice before she talked with Cuthbert about donating it.

“He came out and looked at it, and we talked about it. He’s a historian, and for his perspective from that, it’s a house on the national register of historic places,” Suttenfield said. “So it seems very logical.”

The painting depicts what residents of the Shepherdstown house, Falling Spring, might have seen when looking out from their porch onto what is now Route 480. Built by the same Morgan family for whom the Morgan’s Grove Park is named for, the 1830s-era house is still standing, although it has gone through various updates through the years. The porch Suttenfield depicts in the painting was added on to the house in the 1930s by the Steptoe family.

“It was basically like if it was painted in the 1930s, because the porch was built then,” Suttenfield said. “It’s a little imaginary, but I think it’s a truthful painting.”

For Staley, having the painting donated in his name was an honor, made more important because he had a say in which painting was chosen.

“It’s impressionistic to a degree, but not absolutely,” Staley said.

After the painting was placed in the trunk of Cuthbert’s van, it was taken to Morgantown, framed and placed in the main WVU library.

“Most people would not associate fine art with West Virginia history, but there are so many fantastic artists from the Eastern Panhandle,” Cuthbert said, mentioning he had pursued acquiring a donation from Suttenfield on behalf of the WVU Libraries’ program, Art in the Libraries.

To learn more about the Art in the Libraries program, visit exhibits.lib.wvu.edu/all_exhibits.