by Donald Anthony
The Arts are taking off. The museum is reborn and expanded. Streetscape architecture is new again. Older homes in demand! There is even high rise under construction in the city and the town theater has been renovated and expanded. This is not a “best kept secret” sort of story because Richmond has been well known on the national and international scene before there was a United States. Somehow, Richmond was not on my radar. For that I suffered appropriately, looking at a city that is up-to-date, respectful of history, and a challenge to an attitude that supposes that only the largest cities can be part of the national economic engine.
My introduction to this happening was through the Hotel Jefferson: modern in facility yet Victorian in motif; contemporary in attitude with old fashioned service. After getting out of the car we greeted the alligator, went past the superman phone booths, said hello to Mr. Jefferson, and then checked in under stained glass windows, that feels like they were made by Tiffany. Friendly but business efficient staff checked me into a typical 2 room unit that over looked the city. I settled in for 5 minutes then ran out to see the town on my own for a few minutes walk.
What I intended to be a few minutes turned into almost an hour due the interesting architecture. The housing stock appears to be mostly early to middle 19th century, with a good representation of the Victorian to early 20th Century. Walking appears easy and relatively safe with almost no chance of getting lost but almost a sure thing to gain weight at the many small restaurants. For me the town was quite reminiscent of small town art village. The creativity, color, environment, and diversity are quite a heady mix to absorb. The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is located in a converted milk processing plant: plenty of community art but no bottles available. This is one of those times I could kick myself for not having the kids with me. I had the opportunity to speak with artist Noah Scalin, who spoke of the creative process itself and his in particular when he did his project of drawing a skull-a-day for over a year, from a variety of materials never duplication. The first one appeared easy to do but gradually it got tougher and required more creativity. He explained that digging deeper into his soul drew out elements that conventional life could not. I suppose that his mind became the workroom of a muse. The Visual Arts center offers this kind of incubation for the community and its children. At a local Art gallery, such as the Page Bond Gallery, works of Art are sold to the general public or to the discriminating eye. Here we learned that the real secret of art is in both the eye and the emotion the piece invokes in the observer.
My tour continued to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which at this time has a focused exhibit on Tiffany: Color and Light. But don’t be confused, the museum underwent a massive restoration and expansion so the other exhibits have room to display their finery. And don’t let “have room” fool you. The museum is on the world stage and knows it. The art collection is second to none and a challenge to all. Wander around and discover the room you like the best. Check out the schedule of events and perhaps join other visitors enjoying a concert on the backyard lawn.
Another top attraction is the Richmond Center Stage. This is a performing arts incubator as well as staging ground for talent, so to describe just what they do is a little tricky but “passionate entertainment” might be a good term. The onstage, offstage, and subscription holders all seem to perform their roles with unbridled passion.
Richmond is also one of the first cities to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War. Keep up to date with the activities and special events through The Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau, at http://www.VisitRichmondVA.com
Hotel Jefferson - http://www.jeffersonhotel.com
Visual Arts Center of Richmond – http://www.visarts.org
Page Bond Gallery - http://www.pagebondgallery.com
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/
Richmond Center Stage - http://www.richmondcenterstage.com
Lewis Ginter Garden - http://www.lewisginter.org