Largest Private Gift in College's History Announced
(For additional information, contact WVU Parkersburg President Erik Bitterbaum, 304.424.8200 or Beth McNally, executive director of the WVU at Parkersburg Foundation, 304.424.8340.)
A Parkersburg Community College faculty member is pledging to give the largest private gift in the history of West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
Madame Shao Fang Sheng, internationally-known artist and one of the original students of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, taught a variety of courses from calligraphy to Chinese cooking in the 1970s at the then PCC. Her gift to WVU Parkersburg includes her extensive art and jewelry collections as well as priceless Wright drawings and memorabilia.
In announcing the donation, WVU Parkersburg officials said the contribution will serve as seed money for a multi-cultural center. Announcement of the gift was made at a luncheon Oct. 4 in observance of the college's 40th birthday.
"This is a magnificent gift," WVU Parkersburg President Erik Bitterbaum said. "We are so delighted that Madame Sheng is making it possible for us to advance cultural opportunities in the region. She shares our vision and the center will be a legacy to her commitment."
The center is being designed by architect Bing Hu, a native of Beijing, who came to the United States from China under the sponsorship of Madame Sheng and her late husband civil engineer Sheng Pao Sheng to study at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Hu heads his own architectural firm in Scottsdale, AZ.
The Parkersburg campus’ facility will feature a Wright-inspired design with gently sloping walls on either side to accommodate and blend with the site’s terrain. It is conceptualized to include a recital hall, galleries for Madame Sheng’s collections as well as WVU Parkersburg student artwork, an arts/crafts demonstration area, an amphitheatre, a meditation area and a perpetually turning tower similar to the inspirational pillar of a pagoda. (Architectural rendering)
"I hope the center will be like a flower that will open slowly," Madame Sheng said in talking about the cultural center’s development.
For many years, Madame Sheng and her late husband championed the impact that education can have on lives. They sponsored a number of Chinese students so they could complete their studies in the United States. In addition, they established an endowment fund for Chinese students with the WVU at Parkersburg Foundation.
"Madame Sheng has a long history with the college and the Foundation. She has been a loyal and generous friend," said Beth McNally, director of the WVU at Parkersburg Foundation.
"In this project, we have had the privilege of watching Madame Sheng's dream grow from a thought, to a concept and now to an architectural rendering. We look forward to the day when Madame Sheng's art will grace the walls of the gallery - the day she will climb the stairs to the tower and celebrate her life's remarkable achievements."
A native of Tientsin, China, Madame Sheng studied at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Taliesin; Florida Southern College and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Her water color and oil paintings have been exhibited throughout the United States. Recently, Ohio University completed a documentary on her life. For more than 40 years, she has served as an instructor at the Chautauqua Institute each summer teaching a variety of courses, including philosophy, art and tai chi.
"An artist should strive always for complete expression of his essential individuality," Madame Sheng says in describing her philosophy of "teaching with the universe."
Madame Sheng credits her late husband and Wright for the opportunity to pursue her potential, noting that she has always believed "she can do anything." She envisions the multi-cultural center as a legacy to Wright’s "pure voice" as well as a vibrant center of art, meditation and multi-cultural understanding.
Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, the widow of Frank Lloyd Wright, once described Madame Sheng as " … representative of a cross section of Chinese society of today – a brilliant exemplar of a force persisting in China for thousands of years."
Madame Sheng is continuing that influence through her pledge to WVU Parkersburg which will impact lives for years and generations to come, WVU Parkersburg President Bitterbaum notes.
She resides in Williamstown where she has an art and jewelry studio in her home.
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