Honoring a Creative Legacy: The Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship


In September of 2022, the community said farewell to cherished artist and celebrated VCUarts alumnus, Wes Freed (B.F.A. ‘88), who lost his battle with colorectal cancer. To honor Freed’s memory, his friends and family have come together to establish a scholarship in his name. 

The Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship Fund seeks to provide scholarships to prospective artists attending VCUarts, honoring Freed’s profound impact on both the art and music worlds.

“For myself and Wes’ contemporary friends, all related to VCU and the 1980’s Richmond music scene, we had a burning desire to remember him in some substantial way,” said Martha Harper, academic advisor within the School of the Arts, who led the charge in establishing the Scholarship Fund alongside VCU alumna Cassandra Gratton. “He was so giving throughout his life, so we knew it had to be something like this scholarship.”

Freed’s work gained acclaim with his cover-art collaborations with rock band The Drive-By Truckers. His distinctive style – characterized by blending markers, watercolor, and acrylic paints – adorned album covers from 1997 onward. He also performed in multiple Richmond bands, established the Capital City Barn Dance (a hub for the Alt-Country music community) and acted in several movies and commercials.

This grassroots scholarship effort seeks to ensure that Freed’s work and impact endures, providing aspiring artists with the support they need to pursue their creative dreams as Freed did his.

“Through the establishment of this Fund, we hope to serve other rural students like Wes, who grow up without a lot of community support to study the arts,” Harper said. “For those students who are told constantly that their creativity is not suitable as a study, but defy that advice and seek to develop their talent through an arts education, we know that Wes will not be forgotten.

Freed’s artistic pursuits were diverse and interdisciplinary, so the scholarship was created with the same approach in mind. It’s designed for any degree within VCU’s School of the Arts, with applications accepted from any rural zip code in Virginia.

Establishing The Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship Fund relies on the generosity of individuals and organizations. The ultimate goal is to raise $50,000 to achieve full endowment status, ensuring that scholarships in Freed’s name can be annually awarded in perpetuity.

To find more information about Freed, his work and this fund, visit FriendsOfWesFreed.com.

Besides giving directly to the fund, the Friends of Wes Freed are holding an online art auction from April 1 to April 27, 2024. The auction will feature a selection of Wes’ works and several donated works from other well known artists, including several VCU School of the Arts alumni. 

“Our efforts for the past year, including a showcase of Wes’ work in Staunton and the art auction, will culminate in a really big show with a surprise guest on April 27 at the Canal Club,” Harper said. “It’s free and open to all as a community celebration of our friend Wes.”

(Lead photo credit: Scott Elmquist, Style Weekly)