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VMFA acquires 34 works of art from Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The acquisitions include numerous works by Thornton Dial and Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has added 34 artworks by African American artists to its collections, it was announced this week. The works, acquired from the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation, are part of a gift/purchase program designed to strengthen the representation of African American artists from the Southern United States in leading art museums across the country.

Since 2014, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation has transferred more than 200 artworks to the permanent collections of leading art museums. With this acquisition, VMFA joins the ranks of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other institutions who have significantly increased their holdings through this effort.

The 34 works now entering VMFA’s collection include drawings, paintings and assemblage sculptures by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Mose Toliver, Jesse Aaron, James “Son Ford” Thomas and Purvis Young.  It also features a significant selection of quilts by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, including four generations of Pettways and two generations of Bendolphs, as well as works by Ruth Kennedy, Nell Hall Williams and Nettie Young.

“The Souls Grown Deep Foundation is an extraordinary partner for VMFA given the museum’s strategic-plan initiative to expand and diversify its collection by adding new works by African American artists and artists from the African diaspora who are currently underrepresented in the collection,” said Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis family curator of modern and contemporary art. “Collectively, these artworks will help to expand our narrative around modern and contemporary art by including works by artists whose extraordinary talents were nurtured through informal educational frameworks such as familial traditions and social engagement rather than conventional art schools or university study.”

VMFA will present the newly acquired works in a special exhibition in its Evans Court Galleries between June 8 and Nov. 17, 2019. The exhibition will be also accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by VMFA.

“This landmark acquisition will provide greater dimension to VMFA’s collection, allowing us to more accurately present the history of contemporary American art,” said VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “These artworks will help to tell a story that for too long has been overlooked by museums and art historians.”

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Photos: Faces of a Parade

We took some traditional parade photos but have decided to go a little more intimate and focus on the faces you see during the Dominion Christmas Parade.

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The Nutcracker Returns

Richmond Ballet and its beloved holiday tradition The Nutcracker return to Dominion Energy Center December 11-23, with the Richmond Symphony playing Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score.

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Richmond Ballet and its beloved holiday tradition The Nutcracker return to Dominion Energy Center December 11-23, with the Richmond Symphony playing Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score. Clara, her adoring Nutcracker, the glittering butterfly, and the dancing Russian bear will once again charm audience members of all ages.

Choreographed by Artistic Director Stoner Winslett, the Richmond Ballet holiday classic has been heralded as “one of the country’s most perfect [Nutcracker productions]” by The New York Times, and this season will mark the final year to celebrate the current production as updated costumes and dazzling new sets will premiere in December of 2022.

“The Nutcracker is a multigenerational experience, with parents, grandparents, and children alike entranced by the magical story. We were heartbroken to not have been able to bring the live theatre experience to the community last year” notes Winslett. “We look forward to welcoming audiences back to Dominion Energy Center this December where the holiday tradition will carry on and new memories will be created.”

Tickets to The Nutcracker start at $25. Tickets may be purchased online at etix.com, by phone at 804.344.0906 x224 or in person at the Richmond Ballet Box Office, 407 East Canal Street, Monday – Friday, 11:00am – 6:00pm.

The Nutcracker – December 11-23, 2021 | Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219

  • Saturday, December 11th, 2021 2:00pm and 7:00pm
  • Sunday, December 12th, 2021 1:00pm and 4:30pm
  • Saturday, December 18th, 2021 2:00pm and 7:00pm
  • Sunday, December 19th, 2021 1:00pm and 4:30pm
  • Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021 7:00pm
  • Thursday, December 23rd, 2021 2:00pm

Health & Safety Protocols
Upon entering the theatre, all audience members ages 12 and above are required to show printed or digital proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or of a professionally-administered negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance. Patrons ages 18 and above will also need to show a photo ID. All patrons ages 2 and above are required to wear a mask at all times while in Dominion Energy Center, except when eating and drinking in specified locations. Please note that proof of vaccination or of a negative COVID test is not required for children under the age of 12.

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VMFA acquires work by abstract painter Alma Thomas

Painting complements works by African American and women artists and artists of the Washington Color School.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) recently acquired Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring (1970), a painting by African American artist Alma Thomas (1891–1978).

“We are delighted that Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring has joined VMFA’s Modern and Contemporary art holdings,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Alma Thomas was a major contributor to 20th-century art. Her nature-based paintings significantly influenced artists who came after her, and her vibrantly colored canvases resonate with viewers today.”

Born in Columbus, Georgia, during the Jim Crow Era, Alma Woodsey Thomas and her family moved to Washington D.C., where more educational and economic opportunities were available for African Americans. By 1921, Thomas enrolled in art instruction courses at Howard University and, by 1924, became the program’s first graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in fine arts. After receiving her Master of Arts degree in education from Columbia University in the 1930s, Thomas taught at Shaw Junior High School in Washington D.C. for 35 years before retiring in 1960 and devoting herself to painting full time.

Thomas had earlier eschewed abstract art in favor of figurative and still life painting. By the 1960s however, when studying at American University in Washington D.C., she admired and responded to the abstract paintings created by Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and other contemporaries in the Washington Color School. This loosely affiliated group of painters applied luminous colorful hues by staining and soaking their raw canvases with thinned oil or acrylic paint.

In 1972, Thomas became the first African American woman artist to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. She was also the first African American woman artist to have her work acquired and displayed in the White House after former First Lady Michelle Obama selected two paintings, Watusi (Hard Edge) and Sky Light, installed on loan to the White House in 2009, before the landmark acquisition in 2015 of Thomas’s 1966 painting Resurrection. Thomas’s works are featured in many museum collections including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art. Her work is the subject of the current nationally touring retrospective entitled Alma Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful.

“Acquiring a painting by Alma Thomas has long been a priority for the museum. We patiently waited for an iconic work and are delighted to bring this vibrant visual echo of Thomas’ garden into our collection,” said Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring will complement VMFA’s existing holdings of work by African American and women artists, artists of the Washington Color School, as well as the canon’s celebrated masters of abstraction Norman Lewis, Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, whom Thomas noted as significant influences.”

The painting, from Thomas’s Earth series, is a classic example of the unique painting style she developed after encountering the work of the Washington Color School. Her technique of placing precise dabs of vibrant color in a succession of vertical, hyphenated stripes conveys the beauty of a colorful flower garden. The palette of warm browns, fresh greens, bright blues and sunny yellows evokes the blooming flowers, petals, grass, tree trunks and clear skies the artist could see from her bay window, which overlooked the garden at her home at 1530 Fifteenth Street in Washington D.C.

“Alma Thomas applied her radiant colors in a series of vertical, staccato brushstrokes in Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring to capture, in abstract terms, the beauty and rhythms of the natural world, including the flowers in her garden,” said Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education. “The white gesso ground that breaks up both the lines and bold touches of color not only helps to organize the composition’s rendering of the diverse shapes and colors of the natural environment, but also illuminates the scene and suggests sunlight peeking through the flowers and leaves. We believe that this joyful painting will be a landmark purchase for VMFA and an iconic work for our visitors to see and enjoy.”

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