Wheeling Gaunt Sculpture Project

"Not what we have but what we share"

Symbols matter. Our sculpture project imagines an alternative American landscape, one where Black heroes are recognized, celebrated, and remembered through public works of art.  We’re on a mission to commemorate the life of Wheeling Gaunt, born enslaved on a tobacco plantation in 1815. His hard work, perseverance, and generosity made him a legend in his hometown of Yellow Springs , Ohio, where he is still remembered today.

The Wheeling Gaunt sculpture comes as a time when the problematic symbols of our past are toppling to the ground. To many, these monuments reflect the racial oppression Wheeling Gaunt worked so hard to escape. Our project joins in a major reconsideration of how the history of slavery and white supremacy is taught and viewed, especially through public art and memorials.

Over the past two years, our team (the Yellow Springs Arts Council ) has worked to commemorate the life of Wheeling Gaunt with a life-size sculpture, cast in bronze, by national artist Brian Maughan. Once finished, our project will push the national conversation forward by reconsidering who we choose to honor, and why.  Sculptures, monuments, and memorials matter. Become part of the movement rethinking our national monuments by helping us erect the Wheeling Gaunt Sculpture. Please join us in creating a more inclusive narrative about our past, present, and future.

Please click the  “Donate now” button to the right and help us complete this vital community project.

Who was Wheeling Gaunt?

Wheeling Gaunt was born into chattel slavery in Kentucky in 1815.  There are a few gaps in his story, but we know at one point he saved enough money picking apples and shining shoes to buy his own freedom at the sum of $900 (that’s $21,413 today). He also bought his wife’s freedom before making his way north to settle in the village of Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the early 1860s. While Ohio outlawed slavery in 1803, life was still an uphill climb for African Americans in the 19th century; however, Gaunt thrived in Yellow Springs. He bought and sold property in several areas around the village, becoming rich in the process. But Gaunt was more than a prosperous land owner. He was also community minded. It’s hard to imagine extreme generosity coming from a man who spent 32 years enslaved. Yet that is exactly the legacy of Gaunt, who—as “the richest black man in Ohio”—bequeathed generous sums to AME Central Chapel, Wilberforce University, and the Village of Yellow Springs. Gaunt triumphed over slavery, loss, and racial barriers to become a successful entrepreneur who taught by example about giving rather than taking. He is best known for his gift of farmland to Yellow Springs, with the stipulation that the rental income be used to distribute flour to windows of all races and creeds. More than 120 years later, the tradition (known as “Christmas Flour”) continues today as a gesture of goodwill and benevolence in our community. 

As the national debate over Confederate memorials rages, the Wheeling Gaunt Sculpture will commemorate the vibrant Black community he helped build in the 1800s, and be a vigilant welcome to people of color.

How Will Gaunt’s Sculpture Make an Impact?

You’re probably aware America is covered in confederate symbols. At least 718 statues and memorials litter the country, though many are now slated for removal or relocation. The removal of monuments and symbols that speak to oppressive aspects of our social structure is an important step to a more just future. The Gaunt Sculpture not only celebrates an important local figure, it also honors its namesake’s values, and provides a strong beacon of diversity. Gaunt’s likeness allows people of color—especially children—to see themselves through public art. The sculpture echoes our message that community is rooted in diversity and the contributions of people of color are a significant part of our history. Ask yourself: What would the U.S. landscape look like if we paid tribute to those figures truly worthy of the honor?

Taking Action

Here’s how you can help:

The Wheeling Gaunt Sculpture is our most ambitious funding goal to date. We’ve taken in about 75 percent of total costs so far, with one BIG subgoal standing in our way: The bronze casting of artist Brian Maughan’s life-size clay sculpture. We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of Brian, whose incredible talent propelled our project from an ambitious daydream and into reality. A resident of Yellow Springs for 14 years, he was a kind man who created bronze portraits of many prominent figures.  We are more committed than ever to see Brian’s vision of Wheeling Gaunt through. After bronzing, we’ll install his sculpture in a scenic park on the north end of town for everyone to enjoy. Will you help us make this happen?

Gaunt’s values inspire all citizens and his "can-do" attitude is an example we can all emulate. With your help, we can share his message of benevolence and generosity with as wide an audience as possible.

Please click the “Donate now” button to the right and help us complete this vital community project.
  • Luisa Bieri Rios
    • $25 
    • 14 mos
  • Rebecca Kuder
    • $100 
    • 14 mos
  • Erika Grushon
    • $100 
    • 15 mos
  • Catherine Zettner
    • $30 
    • 15 mos
  • Alice Kennedy
    • $250 
    • 16 mos
See all

Fundraising team (3)

Yellow Springs Arts Council
Yellow Springs, OH
Yellow Springs Arts Council
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.
Morgan Laurens
Team member
Timothy Barhorst
Team member

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.