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Virginia Forest Service Celebrates 100 Years With Smokey Bear Art Show

Smokey Bear, as created by the Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council.
Forest Service
Smokey Bear, as created by the Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council.

The Virginia Department of Forestry celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and fans of the forests will mark the 70th birthday of the best known firefighter: Smokey Bear. One special art show was organized to honor both.

Since he was introduced to the American public 70 years ago, Smokey’s been portrayed by a number of artists, but it was a Virginia painter, Rudy Wendelin, who made this bear the icon he is today.

“He made him more human — he has fingers, he smiles, he wears blue jeans, he has a shovel, and as we say, a little less bear-like," says Susan Leidy, Deputy Director of the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, where 19 Wendelin paintings will be on public display for the first time, along with a collection of Smokey memorabilia.

“We're going to have a birthday cake at 1 p.m. Of course, no candles. We'll have family activities. Smokey, of course, will be there,” Leidy says.

The show opens Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Chrysler Museum and will remain there until Feb. 1, at which time it may travel to other parts of the state.

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