By Chelsea Jackson, Siona Peterous, and Trevor Dickerson
With an inaugural exhibit that challenges the city’s Confederate history and racial divide, Virginia Commonwealth University will open its Institute for Contemporary Art next week, and it’s generating excitement not only in Richmond but also in national and international art communities.
The 41,000-square-feet Markel Center, where the ICA is housed, cost $41 million and sits at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets–the city’s busiest intersection, with an estimated 60,000 cars passing by every day. Supporters say the facility will be transformational to Richmond, offering striking architectural visuals on the exterior and exhibits inside ranging from the thought-provoking to the downright provocative.
The city’s only stand-alone gallery of contemporary art, which will open to the public next Saturday, April 21st, sits between VCU’s Monroe Park Campus and the historic Jackson Ward community–a point that for decades was the divide between black Richmond and white Richmond.
Joe Seipel, the interim director of the ICA (and former dean of the VCU School of the Arts who returned from retirement to assume the role), said the idea for the project has been around for decades. Seipel and the ICA team say they have worked to ensure that everyone feels welcome to come enjoy the art gallery, a goal he hopes to accomplish by keeping admission free.
During a press preview Thursday, New York-based architect Steven Holl said he looked to Richmond’s deep and complicated history for inspiration and incorporated certain aspects to bridge a gap between the growing presence of VCU and the larger Richmond community. Holl’s firm, known for specializing in educational and cultural projects, was chosen from more than 60 that submitted proposals for the building.
“This may be one of my favorite buildings I’ve [worked on] because it makes an urban statement, because there is a relationship between the campus and the city, and it also is a statement on the concept of time,” Holl said. Exploring the cavernous building, it quickly becomes apparent how much thought the renown architect put into every square foot of the institute. Holl says some of his favorite features of the facility are the specially-designed auditorium with a state-of-the-art audiovisual system and a steeply-pitched stadium seating layout as well as the elevator, which is large enough to serve both visitors and artwork and features intricately-detailed walls that take inspiration from the elongated slate in the institute’s outdoor garden.
The “forking” design of the building pays homage to a former train station that once sat on the site. Each of the four galleries intersects and branches out from the overall structure, much like the train tracks at Broad and Belvidere once did.
The relationship among time, space and race relation was a strong influence on the ICA’s opening exhibit, “Declaration,” said the institute’s chief curator, Stephanie Smith. She conceived the idea with Lisa Freiman, Seipel’s predecessor.
“After the 2016 presidential elections, myself and Lisa Freiman decided to reshape the ICA’s inaugural exhibition given the climate of our country,” Smith said. “We were inspired to create a project that we would speak and give a platform to a diverse group of artists whose works reflect currents in contemporary arts but also catalyze change, convene people across the divide and to speak to important but often difficult topics that are relevant here as well as our nation more broadly.”
Freiman abruptly stepped down as the institute’s director in January after five years of overseeing the planning phases of the project. In a press release at the time, Freiman stated it was time for her to resume other projects she had put on hold. Despite her absence, Smith continued with the vision that created “Declaration.”
The exhibit includes projects from more than 30 artists, many of whom were commissioned by the ICA and whose work speaks to social issues of the environment, gender inequality, race, and sexuality. “Declaration” features a range of mixed media platforms – from audio and film to painting and graphic design.
Expanding on one of his previous exhibits, Paul Rucker, the ICA’s artist in residence, created “Storm in The Time of Shelter” for the ICA. It features Ku Klux Klan robes in urban and contemporary fashions. The life-size figurines wear KKK robes made of colorful fabrics such as African prints and various shades of camouflage.
On the opposite end of the first floor is a massive wall featuring a series of individual screen prints. The piece is the work of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. and was created with the collaboration of local barbershops and salons. Each print is a quote from a conversation that Kennedy overheard while in the shops, capturing the role these spaces play in the city’s black neighborhoods.
The diversity of “Declaration” reflects VCU President Michael Rao’s hope that the ICA will make the city an international destination.
“We hope to become through VCUs Institute of Contemporary Art a world-class cultural hub,” Rao said. He said the ICA will help “advance the arts and invoke human senses like they have never been invoked before.”
Editor’s Note: VCU Capital News Service reporters contributed to this report.
Stuck at home? Explore some of Virginia’s most significant historic, cultural sites online for free
Just because you’re social distancing it doesn’t mean you cant explore some of Virginia’s most magnificent cultural and historical sites virtually, online, for free. Here’s a roundup of where you can explore and what you can learn.
By Caroline Logan, Virginia Tourism
With the international crisis regarding COVID-19, also referred to as Coronavirus, visitors may be canceling or rescheduling upcoming travel plans and staying home.
While people are self-isolating and social distancing, many museums, historic sites, and other tourism destinations are offering virtual options for visitors to explore and learn.
Mount Vernon will continue its mission to educate people around the world through its robust digital presence. The historic site will provide digital tours of the mansion through mountvernon.org/virtualtour. The Washington Library has also prepared digital resources for students and their parents will be working with its network of teachers nationwide to support their educational efforts. These resources can be accessed at mountvernon.org/digital. Mount Vernon’s YouTube channel also features a livestream of the estate’s newborn lambs.
Monticello hosts a number of online exhibits including “The Declaration Around the World,” “The Life of Sally Hemings,” and “ Users can also download the Slavery at Monticello: Life and Work on Mulberry Row app for free.
James Madison’s Montpelier has publicly accessible blog posts, websites, podcasts, and social media posts for visitors to enjoy. Access to podcasts and video series can be found on the site’s YouTube page. Those interested in the research, history, archaeology, and collecting at Montpelier can visit the Digital Doorway for a wealth of information at digitaldoorway.montpelier.org.
Colonial Williamsburg is adding content to its Explore From Home website from the people who bring history to life. Resources include guides for teachers, quizzes and puzzles for students, interactive timeline, pages for exploring art collections, and printable coloring sheets from The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, as well as libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world.
The Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond will be offering free online video content, webinars, student learning resources, and virtual tours at VirginiaHistory.org/AtHome.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle has a virtual tour and numerous distance learning opportunities. The rich, interactive virtual environment will serve as the gateway for Marines and visitors to see the museum from the comfort of their homes. The museum’s online distance learning programs engage audiences with the history of the United States Marine Corps. Programs include a plethora of virtual learning experiences and subject matter for people to learn important and interesting topics related to the Marine Corps. Take the virtual tour at virtualusmcmuseum.com and access the distance learning programs at usmcmuseum.com/distance-learning.html.
The Chrysler Museum of Art located in Norfolk’s NEON Arts District features 50 galleries, 30,000 objects, and a world-renowned glass collection. Viewers can take a virtual tour through the galleries as well as explore the museum’s Digital Collections featuring European and American paintings, sculptures and decorative arts and works from African, ancient Egyptian, Pre-Columbian, Islamic and Asian cultures.
Join the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk for a Virtual Voyage every day at 2 p.m. (March 16 – 30, 2020) on its Facebook page. Visitors can go behind the scenes, tour the zoo, and check in on their favorite animals. The zoo’s Virtual Voyage website also offers augmented reality tours, printable activity sheets, a YouTube video series, and more.
Take a virtual walking tour of historic Fincastle in Botetourt County with over 50 individual “stops,” each complete with a picture and background about the location.
The Kids Square Children’s Museum in Roanoke will go live on Facebook at least once a day during the week until reopening. They’ll be doing everything from science experiments to book reading. Visitors joining the livestream have the chance to win one of the items that Kids Square is playing with that day.
The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum in Ferrum offers the following online exhibits for individuals to learn more about folk heritage in the Blue Ridge region.
- Full Throttle: Racing and Rodding in Southwest and Central Virginia
- Moonshine: Blue Ridge Style
- Deathly Lyrics: Songs of Virginia Tragedies
- Earthenware Along the Great Road in Virginia and Tennessee
The Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke has images and background information on nearly every item in the rail, road, air, and ship collections. Collections are separated by category and can be accessed here.
The William King Museum of Art in Abingdon will be broadcasting live via Facebook every Tuesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. Videos will include tours of the galleries, insider looks at collections, family-friendly art projects, and live art demos.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond is sharing “Virtual Visits” on its Facebook page as well as putting resources for learning (including activities for kids) and ideas for relaxation and mental health on its website lewisginter.org.
Take a virtual tour around Virginia Beach’s cultural enclave by using this Google Mural Map to explore the ViBe Creative District on a virtual, self-guided mural tour. Click on the map icons to find information about the artists, artworks and locations, along with multiple images of the artwork and video links of murals created during the last two years of the ViBe Mural Festival.
The Barter Theatre in Abingdon is working to offer its patrons the ability to stream productions from home. The production of “Peter Pan” that was originally scheduled to open on April 7 will be online to patrons as well as access special bonus features. The theatre will also be providing coordinating educator resources, including lesson plans and a study guide. More information can be found here: bartertheatre.com/barter-theatre-on-demand
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach will provide entertaining, educational content to fans including live streams, video footage, crafts for kids, and behind the scenes peeks on its website and social media channels.
The City of Alexandria created a new web hub called ALX at Home, which brings residents and nearby visitors their favorite Alexandria restaurants, shops and attractions to the comfort of their own home. Features include:
- 50+ restaurant and 15 retail deals and offerings
- Attraction offerings such as virtual tours and a “Ride it Out” bike rental program from Unlimited Biking.
- Cocktail Corner for Happy Hour at home with instructional videos from The Hour boutique.
- Puppy Love, bringing a daily dose of cuteness from Alexandria’s four-legged friends.
The Omni Homestead Resort’s podcast, Beyond the Tower offers an insider’s look into one of America’s most iconic resorts. From historical anecdotes to one-of-a-kind experiences, Beyond the Tower includes topics from the history of the resort and golf to the Garth Newel Music Center and the resort’s partnership with a local farmer. Each episode begins and ends with “Welcome to My Homestead,” an original composition from David Hill, a native of Roanoke, Virginia and one of the resort’s most popular musicians.
For those interested in historic moments of Virginia, listen to the Following Harriet podcast. Following Harriet takes a closer look at the life of one of the bravest and most extraordinary women in our country’s history. It also puts Harriet in a broader context, examining the 19th Century experience of African Americans, especially in Virginia.
Do you know of any other online options that attractions are providing? Let us know in the comments below.
Planned Weekend Opening for Goochland Drive-In Canceled
If you want to catch a movie on a big, really, really big screen this is pretty much your only option.
As you know, the GDIT had planned to open this weekend – with modifications to our operations that would promote social distancing and responsibility.
The news and mandates continue to change daily. The latest info from our health department states we can open, but no concession sales. We simply don’t know what restrictions may be imposed tomorrow.
Right now things are unfamiliar and uncomfortable for all of us. But we believe brighter days are ahead……as they always are. They’ll get here quicker if we all do our part….and that’s what we plan to do.
So we’ve decided to delay the start of our 2020 Season…..we sincerely hope you understand and promise to keep you all updated. Thank you all for the love & support.
Hope to see you soon under the stars.
With kindest regards,
It’s easier to practice social distancing when you’re in a car. That being said the folks at Goochland Drive-In are making some changes outlined below. I can only speak to one of the movies being shown. 1917 was an amazing film that benefits from being on the big screen of a normal theater I can only imagine what it’ll look like at the drive-in.
- Parking limited to 70% of capacity
- Markers placed in service lines at Snack Bar to separate folks
- Condiments will be handed out in packets – self-serve pumps removed from front tables
- Outside Food Permit — while we survive off concession purchases, this weekend patrons may bring in their own food for an extra $15 per vehicle….paid at the Ticket Booth along with admission…..and will be provided a food permit to display
- We have always been sticklers for cleanliness…that will never change — but for now….a Crew member will be present to constantly clean and sanitize
- Doors to the restrooms will be propped open to allow fresh air and to avoid touching the door.
PLAYGROUND – CLOSED
- Children have proven to be nearly immune – but in the best interest of all, the playground will be closed…….however, feel free to bring along your own frisbees, cornhole, games, etc. to stay entertained before the show
Thank you all for taking a moment to read this post — we look forward to seeing you guys this weekend!!!
Music at Maymont announces Carbon Leaf as first 2020 season show
The Richmond favorites will take the stage July 18th at historic Maymont as part of their Brothers In Arms tour.
Haymaker Productions has announced the first act for Music at Maymont for the 2020 series: Richmond’s own Carbon Leaf will take the stage Saturday, July 18th at 7:00 PM. After their Richmond start, Carbon Leaf has been entertaining audiences worldwide for well over two decades.
Blending rock, folk, Celtic, bluegrass and Americana traditions into a high-energy style the group calls ether-electrified porch music, Carbon Leaf’s poetic songs are brought to life with acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, fiddle, bass, drums, cello, banjo, pennywhistle, pedal steel, accordion, and rich vocal harmony.
The Virginia quintet writes, records and produces its music independently from their studio in Richmond and has performed over 2,400 lives shows across 17 albums in their long career. The group’s independent music and spirit continue to resonate with its fans.
Doors open at 6:00 PM. Tickets for Carbon Leaf are $25 in advance and $35 at the gate.
Children under 10 free with paid adult admission. Tickets can be purchased beginning March 13 at eventbrite.com. The Maymont Stage is located at 1700 Hampton Street.