Controversial statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee melted down for future art project

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which once stood in Charlottesville, Va., has been melted down to create a new art project. File Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which was removed from Charlottesville, Va.'s, Market Street Park in 2021, has been melted down so that it can be turned into a new art installation.

The initiative to repurpose the statue's materials was spearheaded by the Jefferson School African American Cultural Center and the organization Swords into Plowshares.

The statue was the catalyst for the Unite the Right rally in 2017, which was attended by large numbers of torch-carrying protesters from far-right and white supremacist organizations. That event ended with one counter-protester being killed.

In 2021, the Charlottesville City Council voted unanimously to remove the statue of Lee, as well as a statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The council also voted to donate the statue of Lee to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

Legal disputes followed, filed by the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation, both of which manage sites of historical significance related to the Confederacy.

Ultimately, the legal attempts to prevent the statue from being melted down were unsuccessful.

"Creativity and art can express democratic, inclusive values. We believe that art has the potential to heal," said Jalane Schmidt of Swords into Plowshares after announcing that the statue had been melted down.

A jury will be created to select suitable artists to commence the next phase of the art project, according to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center director Andrea Douglas.