Richmond Folk Festival fans typically have to wait until September for the unveiling of the commemorative poster design. But this year, the festival is going big.
Nationally acclaimed artist, Noah Scalin, will paint the 15th-anniversary design as a giant mural on the side of The Broadberry next week. And you can watch him do it in real-time.
Noah Scalin is no stranger to the art of working while an audience stares, so he’s not particularly nervous about painting the official 2019 Richmond Folk Festival poster as a wall mural while crowds gather around.
“I think it’s great to have people watching and participating,” he said. “I like having folks there seeing how art gets made so it’s not like creating is a secret process. And when they watch you do it, they get to discover that it’s not perfect – it doesn’t look right at first and you have to make changes and eventually, it starts to look good.”
Each year, Richmond Folk Festival officials select a local artist to create the official Richmond Folk Festival poster. Scalin, a nationally-known artist who was born and raised in Richmond, said he’s thrilled to have been chosen, especially on the Richmond Folk Festival’s 15th anniversary.
“It’s such an honor to be chosen,” Scalin said. “I’ve lived in Richmond almost all of my life and I’m a huge fan of the Richmond Folk Festival just like anyone else. Getting to design the poster — especially on the 15th anniversary — is a really big deal for me.”
Scalin will be at the Broadberry, 2729 W Broad St, each morning from 9:00am to 12:30pm Aug. 7, 8, and 9 (dates and times subject to change) to paint a large mural on the wall. Richmonders are invited to come watch and talk to him while he paints each day. The finished mural will then be adapted into the official 2019 Richmond Folk Festival poster but the original will remain on the Broadberry wall “for as long as the Broadberry wants to keep it,” he said.
Scalin’s concept for the mural is an interactive one.
“I’m sort of working on this idea of a spirit or goddess of music who is presiding over our city,” he said. “She’ll have a hand outstretched so people can walk up to the art and stand in the outpouring of music and energy that is coming off of her hand.”
It’ll be a good place to take a selfie, he acknowledged, but more than that, it will give viewers a way to be a part of the artwork.
Richmonders are probably already familiar with Scalin’s art, even if they don’t know it. He painted the large colorful portrait of civil rights activist John Mitchell Jr., which can be seen from Arthur Ashe Boulevard on the outside wall of The Diamond.
He also created the mural of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the “godmother of rock and roll,” which is on a wall in the GreenGate complex in Short Pump.
But it’s his clothing portraits that have had people talking. Three years ago, Scalin drew national attention when time-lapse videos of his clothing portraits went viral.
Plenty of Richmonders saw the shows live. At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Scalin created a portrait of a man’s face based on a photograph taken in the 1800s by Richmonder James Conway Farley, who was the first African American to achieve prominence in photography.
While crowds watched, Scalin created the portrait by starting with a pile of donated clothing. He arranged the pieces on the floor until they became a huge recreation of a face – the unmistakable, exact face in the Farley photograph.
He later did the same thing at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business; while students and staff came and went in the atrium, he turned a pile of laundry into a portrait of Maggie Walker, laid out on the floor.
The videos of his work circulated across social media and while his name may not have become famous, his work did.
Scalin said that while painting for an audience isn’t really nerve-wracking, creating those clothing portraits sometimes is.
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