Volkov Metal Arts of Cascade has been commissioned to design, fabricate and install the entry doors for the developing Ritchie History Museum, scheduled to open in 2023.
The museum will be in one of two buildings, currently under renovation, funded in part by a grant from the State of Maryland, on the grounds of the former U.S. Army Installation Fort Ritchie, which is also in Cascade, a rural community outside Hagerstown.
During WWII, some 20,000 “Ritchie Boys” (and 200 Ritchie Girls), many of whom were German-Jewish refugees, were trained at “Camp Ritchie” in top-secret military intelligence.
Museum director Landon Grove says metal artist Dmitrii Volkov was initially contacted because he was part of the local community, but then it was how the St. Petersburg, Russia, native approached the project that really impressed him.
“Dmitrii was clearly very interested in the history of the Fort,” Grove said, “but he was also interested in the geography, and he gave us a great design that shows his passion. It was immediately clear he is not producing just for the sake of producing something; he has a real connection to his work.”
Volkov’s design for the Ritchie Museum combines creativity with authenticity, incorporating the waterfall (“cascade”) that was created from damming the mountainous manmade lakes used by the Buena Vista Ice Company in the late 19th century, as well as the two lakes’ elevations. Volkov is also committed to the architecture and construction methods of the stone buildings, built when the property was purchased by the Maryland National Guard in the late 1920s.
“For example, the doors need to correlate with the building’s historical window frames,” he explained, “and I will do it as it was done when they were first made.”
An award-winning designer, fabricator and restorer of metal decorative and applied arts both in Russia and in the U.S., Volkov refers to himself as an “artist-blacksmith” because he treasures traditional ironmaking methods and tools; he makes his metal joints by hand, not by welding; he uses hand-held (and sometimes handmade) tools for forging, cutting, bending and texturing; and his renderings — themselves intricate works of art — are done by hand, though he admits to being proficient in computer designing, too.
Although he was much in demand in his native St. Petersburg, where he was active in national heritage restoration and created art for the political and social elite, he and his wife and son emigrated to the U.S. in 2018 in order to pursue what they consider an easier, kinder life. They chose rural Maryland because of its accessibility to major art centers, as well as the serenity and the natural beauty that influences much of his work.