When Love Comes to Town

Photo by Dan Mclinden, Ciao Bella Photos

The Warrenton LOVE Sculpture

When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that train
When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that flame
Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down
But I did what I did before love came to town!
-BB King

Everyone’s noticed the proliferation of Love sculptures in our area in the past few years — it appears that everyone wants in on celebrating Virginia’s “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan. It’s only to be expected that Warrenton participate!

The “Loveworks” project began in 2013 when the state began began soliciting local artwork that incorporates this iconic theme of Virginia and showcases the now 50-year-old slogan. Since then, local communities have commissioned over 150 sculptures representing their unique vision on how “Virginia is for Lovers” applies to them.
When the Sitting Vice Mayor and Experience Old Town Warrenton’s Design Committee Chair Sunny Reynolds first heard of the Loveworks project and the state initiative soliciting local art projects, she immediately knew Warrenton had to get involved. Just like the U2/B.B. King Blues song, It was time for love to come to town.

As part of the National Main Street Program, Experience Old Town Warrenton is tasked with helping find ways to revitalize the historic downtown area both economically and aesthetically. After conferring with other committee members including Annabelle Rigby, Sunny approached the organization’s Board of Directors to seek approval for Warrenton’s entry for the statewide initiative and begin the long process of finding an artist, selecting an appropriate site, and then obtaining the necessary funding.

Armed with the board approval, the Design Committee began searching for the appropriate artist. There are many talented artists in the region, but fortunately for Warrenton, Sunny was already aware of one who would be a perfect fit for job, renowned local sculptor Dorothy Smith. Sunny said, “I have always appreciated Dorothy’s style. Working with metal is most difficult and can look and have a feel of heaviness. Dorthy’s work for me is open and free and gives the perception of open space. She is very versatile. I thought she would be the perfect artist to produce the piece we were looking for and we wanted a local artist.”

The committee approached Dorothy as to her interest first, then her design proposals, and finally, her costs. After Sunny discussed her vision and location for the sculpture, Dorothy drew up a rough sketch of what she thought would fit in the space, with fun lines and light, playful colors, and a nod to the prior use of the area as the train depot. After a few suggestions from the committee, mostly regarding the color palette, and some subtle changes, her design was approved.

Moving the sculpture upon completion. Photo by Sunny Reynolds

Soliciting the required funding was no small matter, as the cost involved would total $10,000. However, once again the committee had someone in mind. Local businessman, Matt Iten, had long been interested in supporting efforts to revitalize historic Old Town Warrenton as well as enabling artistic expression. Once approached about the project and learning of the design proposal, Mr. Iten generously agreed to fund the effort. Now the final part of the task would be deciding where to place the work.

The most important part of any public works project where visibility and access are paramount is the location. In order to maximize accessibility while also doing the most for Old Town Warrenton, it was important to find the appropriate central public location. Of course, public lands require permission from the town council, as well as aid from county officials in maintaining the site after completion. As everyone knows, this takes time and effort. However, in the case of Warrenton, the perfect spot was readily apparent. Depot Park was the obvious location and was selected as the site because of its central location as well as being representative of the historic importance of the railroad in Warrenton’s development.

To celebrate the theme of love and community that is the focus of the new LOVE Sculpture, Experience Old Town Warrenton, a group dedicated to cultivating a vibrant and neighborly local atmosphere, organized a contest in conjunction with Ciao Bella Events to give one lucky couple the chance to celebrate their wedding at the unveiling of the work of art last September. The contest, which consisted of an essay, asked applicants to give testimonies of healthy, happy, and enduring love in their relationships.
The winning couple, local yoga instructor Monica Anne Ferandi and mail carrier Mike King “Mailman Mike,” was delighted to share their special day with the community. “Our story was one of unconditional love,” Monica said of the newlyweds’ courtship. “On that beautiful day the Ciao Bella Trolley drove Mike and I, with our close friends and family, to the new Love Sculpture at the start of the Warrenton Greenway. I felt so relaxed and full of joy that my smile seemed larger than my head.”
Surrounded by friends, family, and members of the Warrenton community, Monica and Mike enjoyed a ceremony that incorporated their passion for their careers and highlighted their love for each other and the community they have embraced. “We each spoke our own vows and even asked the group to take a big yoga breath, knowing we are all connected in this love” the bride said.
“It was not just our wedding, it was an expression of love and gratitude as the town gave back the love we have given to it,” Monica maintained. “Truly we are all capable of limitless love.”

With funding secured and the site selected and approved, it was then time for Dorothy to begin work incorporating the theme of the historic railroad site with Virginia’s slogan for her new sculpture. Given the go-ahead, she began work on what would prove to be her most readily visible public project and one she hoped would appeal to all. Because of its location on the historic Warrenton-Culpeper railway and now current jogging path and park, Dorothy thought that by combining several contrasting elements she could evoke the foundation of the town’s inception and also include the evolving nature of the community. The sculpture is rustic yet colorful, traditional yet modern, and romantic yet industrial. To ensure its sound structural design, Dorothy garnered the help of local structural welder Dean Arbogast to make sure the sculpture will be around for generations to come. It is built to last, with welded steel and industrial marine paint. It is also very heavy.

Upon the sculpture’s completion, its weight proved problematic when it was time to place it in the park. Since the sculpture is essentially a gift from Experience Old Town Warrenton to the town, it fell under the purview of the Town Public Works and Utilities Department. Bo Tucker and his team provided the brawn and the sculpture was carefully loaded onto a flatbed, transported, and unloaded at Depot Park. It was upon the innovative recommendation of Tucker that the sculpture was placed on an actual section of old railroad track that were left from former rails.

The entire process took nearly a year to complete, but went smoothly until the very end when Hurricane Florence delayed the unveiling for a week. All the hard work and effort by all involved came to fruition on September 20, 2018 when the sculpture was publicly given to the town of Warrenton. After the official dedication, the site was immediately used as a fitting location for a more personal dedication. What better way to inaugurate such a timeless piece of art centered on the romance of train travel coupled with the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” than to have a wedding? Local mailman Mike King and his lovely bride, Monica Anne Fernandi, officially tied the knot.

Now that the sculpture has been part of Old Town Warrenton for a year, it has become a destination for residents and tourists alike. Amelia Stansell, Chair of EOTW’s Board of Directors, said, “Personally, I love that when my family visits from out of town, they like to take photos on it. I love that when I am in the park, I see so many other families doing the same thing – then during homecoming and prom season, I see lots of photos on Facebook of teens in formals taken at the sculpture. It has become part of our community and I love that!”

About the Artist

“The Bond”, owned by Chris Rush

A Broad Run resident for forty-something years, Dorothy is for the most part is a self-taught artist who has learned the craft of welding because it is instrumental in her art; while she works in a variety of media, she is best known for her bronze and metal sculptures. Her most frequent muses are horses, and she wrote, “There is something about the strength and grace of a horse and its ability to form such a binding union with mankind, which cannot fail to inspire beauty.” When asked how she would characterize her style she said, “ My sculptures are like line drawings in air. I want my work to have life and a feeling of movement, to go beyond the simple materials that comprise its structure.” She also finds inspiration from studying ancient petroglyphs, aboriginal art, and universal symbols then combining them with modern techniques into new expressions.


As far as the Warrenton Love Sculpture, Dorothy’s winning design sought to combine a piece of recognizable and traditional history, the railroad, with the state slogan, while also addressing the evolution of the word to a modern day community.

Dorothy said, “When Sunny contacted me about building the sculpture, I was very excited to have a part in putting the word and idea of love in the middle of our town. My favorite part of the project was developing the ideas with Sunny and the Design Committee, and working with Dean. I also loved it when Bo came up with the idea of placing the sculpture on the rails. It was perfect!” Now that it’s done and part of the community, Dorothy said, “I get huge pleasure when I see people interacting with the sculpture, and enjoying it. That’s what art is for.”

About Mike Allen 2 Articles
A resident of Northern Virginia, Mike Allen is a wine consultant, historian, amateur photographer, coach, and blogger. Most importantly, he is the father of Jake and Zack.

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