On September 4th, 2022, beloved artist and Richmond local Wes Freed passed away from colorectal cancer. In honor of his memory, members of the community who knew and loved him are trying to establish a memorial fund in his name with the goal of giving scholarships to prospective artists attending VCUarts.
Wes Freed‘s Story
Described by Rolling Stone as ‘surreal southern-gothic’, Wes Freed’s artistry shone in his distinctive album covers for The Drive-By Truckers, notably gracing seven of their albums, including the 2004 hit, The Dirty South, his personal favorite. His signature style, blending markers, watercolor, and acrylic, earned comparisons by Matt Wake of Alabama Life & Culture to the iconic synergy of Hipgnosis and Pink Floyd. Freed’s creations were a mesmerizing blend of moonlit landscapes, mystical creatures like one-eyed owls and whimsical skeletons, encapsulating a nostalgic world that he described as rooted in a bygone era that never truly existed.
Born in Crimora, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, Wes Freed’s journey began north of Waynesboro. He pursued his education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, graduating in 1987. As a prominent figure in the Richmond music scene, Freed performed with several bands including Dirt Ball, The Shiners, Mudd Helmut, Mutant Drones, and later The Mag Bats. He made Richmond his lifelong home.
His artistic collaboration with The Drive-By Truckers commenced in 1997 following a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, at The Starr Community Bar, where both Dirt Ball and the Truckers performed. Along with his then-wife Jyl, Wes initiated the Capital City Barn Dance, a hub for the Alt-Country music community. This led to a profound friendship and artistic bond with the Truckers, celebrated by Patterson Hood as a “cinematic and dreamlike” match for their sound.
Wes’s talents extended to acting, featuring in works like Jim Stramel’s The Thrillbillys (2001) and Degenerates Ink (2010), and a humorous commercial series for Chesterfield Auto Parts. Tragically, Wes Freed succumbed to colorectal cancer on September 4, 2022, at 58, with his partner Jackie Folkes by his side. His artistic legacy was immortalized in the 2019 book The Art of Wes Freed: Paintings, Posters, Pin-ups, and Possums, showcasing his unique and enduring contributions to the art and music worlds.
What is the Wes Freed Memorial Fund
A grassroots effort has been in effect to endow The Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship Fund at VCUarts. To honor the memory of Wes Freed and the indelible mark he left on the Richmond community, his friends and family are joining together to create an enduring tribute to this visionary artist and musician. We are seeking pledges of support in this endeavor; the first step towards the ability to begin to fund the endowment. We have set up a website: https://www.FriendsofWesFreed.com with a link to pledge support and volunteer. There will also be a display set up with pledge cards at Plan9 Records in Cary Town. The scholarship fund will be available for rural Virginians to pursue their artistic dreams at VCUarts, just as Wes did. Establishing The Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship Fund depends on the generosity of individuals, organizations, and in particular, those who knew and loved Wes. Named endowments last in perpetuity and are created with a minimum commitment of $50,000. By participating in this joint effort, we can sustain Wes’ legacy for generations to come while enabling the next generation of artists to contribute their unique perspectives to the creative landscape. We encourage contributions of any size, as every donation brings us closer to our goal. Special Art and Music fundraising events are to be announced soon!
Right now the organization is taking pledges specifically, with actually donations coming when the fund has raised $25,000 in pledges and VCUarts will officially start taking the money. Right now they are at $7,500, and need your help to push the rest of the way there. After that the goal is $50,000 to achieve full endowment status where the mission of helping students achieve their dreams can be fully realized. The endowed scholarship will provide financial support to talented and deserving students from rural areas (less populated) of Virginia. We want to empower them to pursue their artistic passions and make a lasting impact on their community, just as Wes did. His artistic journey was infused by a deep connection to his rural roots in the Shenandoah Valley. With the scholarship award annually, and with the idea that this is a legacy product, the goal is to award scholarships to students in perpetuity as long as funds are available.
Martha Harper: Committee Chair firstname.lastname@example.org
Renée Stramel: PR and Marketing Manager email@example.com
Committee members include: Cassandra Gratton, Mark Lynn, Jim Bland, Daniel ‘Dano’ Deckleman, Woody Woodworth along with myself and several others including members of his family.