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Don Wiegand - Artist for Life

Are you ready to visit a magical place? Come along with us to the studio of artist Don Wiegand. With Don's masterpieces on exhibit in places like Busch Stadium, the Whitehouse, and the Vatican... Don, in his more than 50 years of creating sculptures, has become well-known to art collectors, celebrities, politicians, influencers, and world leaders. Among his other works, Don has created portrait sculptures, castings, and large full sculptures of various famous and historical figures, including Bob Hope, Martin Luther King Jr., Charles Lindbergh, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Amelia Earhart, and countless others. So many, in fact, Don and his patrons have created a special foundation (the Wiegand Foundation) to maintain and preserve his worldwide collection, studio & park, and continue the mission of his work.

CLICK HERE for the entire 573 podcast with Don.

Distinguished artist, Don Wiegand relaxes in an antique barber chair in his art studio next to an enormous clay sculpture of Bob Hope
Don Wiegand relaxes in his studio located in the Gumbo Bottoms in Chesterfield Missouri.
Meet artist Don Wiegand. He's quite a character.

How does Don's path cross with the 573 Magazine? Good news! Cape Girardeau will be the next American site for an amazing Don Wiegand installation. Set to unveil his latest masterpiece, which will be overlooking the Mississippi River on the campus lawn of the Earl and Margie Holland College of Fine Arts and Media (AKA The Southeast Missouri State University River Campus), the piece is a tribute to life granted to others via tissue, eye and organ donation, and their families.

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With the help of Mid-America Transplant, which pledged $100,000 to the SEMO Foundation in support of Southeast's Holland College of Arts and Media and scholarships in the Department of Nursing, the sculpture will be a monument to life and charity. Mid-America Transplant's support will also provide scholarships to be awarded to Southeast nursing students in the fall of 2024.

Clay sculptures depicting organ donors and recipients toasting life with candles in an art studio
Don Wiegand's tribute to life piece will soon find its new home in Cape Girardeau.

As you can see, the donor and their family toast life with the recipient. However, in this composite for Cape Girardeau, the piece will be positioned so that the recipient is toasting toward the river and the donor's family is toasting toward the school. Not only honoring life through each other but also the life-giving powers of water and education.

The piece will be set close to the old Chestnut tree that has been on the grounds for more than 200 years and mounted upon a large piece of limestone that actually came from the original foundation of the old academy on site. The groundbreaking ceremony to set the piece will be held in April, with the unveiling and dedication set for sometime later this summer.

A man sips coffee in an elegantly decorated dining room by a window with the radiant sunlight beaming in.
Don sips coffee in the elegant dining room of his beautiful studio.
Don's studio is filled with history—a living history studio.
multiple sculptures, sketches, and compositions adorn a large studio room with lots of windows
Don's amazing works adorn every inch of his studio, which is itself a work of art.
Don's studio seems more museum than work space.

A kind and accommodating host, Don served us coffee and led us through his fantastical studio, showing us past pieces and the multiple works that he is currently molding, including Tennessee Williams, a father from Ukraine, Ruth Stricker (a major supporter of the Wiegand Foundation and owner of The Marsh where she taught Tai Chi) and of course, the tribute to life piece destined for the River Campus Overlook Park in Cape Girardeau.

a large sculpture in progress is in the center of an art studio, surrounded by other works in progress, tools, and materials.
Don gazes up at his latest work, a piece honoring the gift of life, destined for Cape Girardeau.
"It’s toasting life. It’s organ donors and organ donor families and recipients standing with candles toasting the most important thing and that is life, and we can’t buy it. It is a gift from God." - Don Wiegand
a small scale composition made of paper cutouts is a shadow of the giant tribute to life sculpture depicting organ donors, their families, and the recipients toasting life with candles
Don uses paper cutout compositions to design each piece down to the finest detail.
Don's sculpture will be set in stone on The River Campus.
A clay boy on a sculpture palette toasts life with a candle in an art studio with sculpting tools hanging in the background
This portrait sculpture of a boy is just one of the elements that will make up the tribute to life piece headed to Cape Girardeau.
Don's memorial sculpture will be life-sized.
An artist holds up a blue print of what his exhibition site will look like
Don shows 573 the plan for how his latest Cape Girardeau piece will be exhibited.
When done, Don's masterpiece will be a most beautiful and thoughtful destination right here in the 573!

As a bonus, Don gave us an insight into his work process—each small step that must be taken and all the work that goes into each piece. It is simply astonishing, more museum than a studio, for sure—watch the 573 podcast.

An artist poses next to a sculpture in progress of playwright, Tennessee Williams
Don works on his Tennessee Williams portrait sculpture in the studio.

Don's work honors and celebrates the higher aspirations of humanity—things like family, community, faith, liberty, patriotism, creative expression, exploration, science, and medical advancement are all represented by his passion.

a roughed out sculpture of a hand holding a cigar in an art studio
Don shows 573 his other current works including this roughed out hand of Tennessee Williams.
You can feel his passion in all his sculptures—clay is so forgiving until it's not. Ha Ha

an artist sits at his easel working a portrait sculpture in his studio
Don takes a short break while working in the Clay Loft.
"I think the coolest thing about sculpting for me is the purpose of the art. The production of it is hard work. There's fun in it, of course, but there's also a lot of stress that comes with getting to the final product. But when you see the recipient and the purpose of it, how it impacts people, that's the reward."

a metal sculpture of the Virgin Mary with arms wide open adorns a table in an art studio
This small scale version of Don's Virgin Mary shows evidence of the process Don uses to finish his pieces.

multiple trays of art and sculpture tools are stacked on a table in a studio
Don uses countless tools to complete his works.

An artist tells a story in an elegant dining room
Don Wiegand tells a story of an awards show that he, and now we, will never forget.
Don is a super fun animated guy with tons of great stories to share. Catch more of his interview on the 573 podcast.

In addition to all of his beautiful works, Don has also adapted some of his pieces for minting into medals. The most famous of these is the Spirit of Hope Award, which resides at the Pentagon and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia.

Don Wiegand's story is too big and awesome to share in just one article, so stay tuned for updates on the project. For more information on Don and the Wiegand Foundation, go to or visit them on Facebook. And watch the 573 podcast. Click below.

Thanks, Don. We love your studio and all that you do.

Get Out There!

words aj koehler

pics t. smugala

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