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VMFA to exhibit “Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop” beginning in February

On display in Evans Court Gallery from Feb. 1 to June 14, 2020, the exhibition features nearly 180 photographs by fifteen of the early members of the Kamoinge Workshop. Working Together tells the story of the first two decades of this collective of artists, who expanded the boundaries of photography as an art form during a critical era of Black self-determination in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Beginning this February, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will highlight the work of a remarkable group of African American photographers in the exhibition Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop. On display in Evans Court Gallery from Feb. 1 to June 14, 2020, the exhibition features nearly 180 photographs by fifteen of the early members of the Kamoinge Workshop. Working Together tells the story of the first two decades of this collective of artists, who expanded the boundaries of photography as an art form during a critical era of Black self-determination in the 1960s and 1970s. This free exhibition is curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, VMFA’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The exhibition has local roots through Louis Draper (1935–2002), who was born in Henrico County and attended the Virginia Randolph School and Virginia State College (now University) before moving to New York in 1957. It was there that Draper met other African American photographers, and in 1963 they came together to form the Kamoinge Workshop. The word Kamoinge means “a group of people acting and working together” in Gikuyu, the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya. The collective met weekly to look at each other’s work, support one another, and organize their own exhibitions. They were also the driving force behind the Black Photographers Annual, a publication that featured the work of black photographers at a time when mainstream publications offered few opportunities for African Americans. Besides Draper, the early Kamoinge members represented in this exhibition are Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Danny Dawson, Roy DeCarava, Al Fennar, Ray Francis, Herman Howard, Jimmie Mannas, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, Ming Smith, Shawn Walker and Calvin Wilson.

Planning for this exhibition began in 2015 when the museum acquired Draper’s complete archive from his sister, Nell Draper-Winston. The archive consists of more than 50,000 items, including photographs, negatives, contact sheets, slides, computer disks, audiovisual materials, and camera equipment, as well as 15 boxes of valuable documents and publications, which include significant materials about the formation and early years of the Kamoinge Workshop. Thanks to a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Draper archive is now completely catalogued, digitized and will be available on the museum’s website before the exhibition opens. VMFA also received a grant from Bank of America to conserve, stabilize and digitize works in its collection of Kamoinge photographs.

“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is proud to house the archive of this talented Richmond photographer as well as the most extensive collection of photographs by early members of the Kamoinge Workshop,” said VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “Our hope is that visitors will learn more about this collective of photographers and experience the beautiful images they created during a time when works by African American artists were marginalized or ignored.”

“When I first had the privilege of looking at Draper’s photographs and began reading his descriptions of the collective’s purpose, I realized this story was of national significance—both art historically and politically,” said Eckhardt.

Eckhardt pointed to a quote by Draper from the VMFA archive that underscores the significance of the African American collective that formed at the height of the civil rights movement and is still active today: “Cognizant of the forces for change revolving around Kamoinge, we dedicated ourselves to speak of our lives as only we can,” Draper wrote. “This was our story to tell and we set out to create the kind of images of our communities that spoke of the truth we’d witnessed and that countered the untruth we’d all seen in mainline publications.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a 304-page illustrated catalogue by Eckhardt, which includes a preface by Deborah Willis and additional essays by Erina Duganne, Romi Crawford, John Edwin Mason and Bill Gaskins. After the exhibition closes at VMFA it will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and two additional museum venues in the United States.

Learn more about the exhibit here.

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Explore Virginia’s natural beauty with new exhibition at Virginia Museum of History & Culture

Celebrate the efforts in preservation and horticulture made by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) during its 100-year history with a new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100.”

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Celebrate the efforts in preservation and horticulture made by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) during its 100-year history with a new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100.”

Featuring photographs and objects from the past century of the organization’s history, this exhibition highlights the work of the GCV and its dedicated members in advancing the appreciation of horticulture and the advocacy for land preservation, particularly regarding the formation of the state parks system.

“As the first conservation organization in Virginia, the achievements of GCV have bettered the lives of all who live in or travel through the Commonwealth,” the VMHC said in a release.

The Garden Club of Virginia is now a partnership of 3,400 community and civic leaders active in 48 garden clubs across the state.

Learn more about the exhibition here.

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The Byrd Theatre hires first ever Executive Director amid COVID-19 pandemic

Stacy Shaw, the new Executive Director, as of July 1, 2020, comes to the Byrd Theatre with 30 years experience as an arts administrator having worked for 2 other historic theaters in her past, The Wells Theatre in Norfolk, VA and The National Theatre in DC.

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Closure due to COVID-19 isn’t stopping the Byrd Theatre from continuing to focus on the strategic plan and its long-term future. When closure happened in Mid-March, the Byrd Theatre Foundation was already well into a national search for the first Executive Director to lead the non-profit theatre as part of the Phase 2 Strategic Plan. Thanks to the more than $1,100,000 raised in early lead gifts toward a second phase of the Strategic Plan, funds have been earmarked for both capital improvements and restorations as well as opportunity funds to finance this leadership position at the theatre.

Stacy Shaw, the new Executive Director, as of July 1, 2020, comes to the Byrd Theatre with 30 years experience as an arts administrator having worked for 2 other historic theaters in her past, The Wells Theatre in Norfolk, VA and The National Theatre in DC. She spent the last 6 years at The National Theatre as the Director of Institutional Advancement establishing corporate, capital, endowment, and major donor campaigns while expanding foundation and government support. She lives in Petersburg, VA with her wife who teaches at Virginia State University.

“We are so thrilled to have someone with Stacy’s experience and expertise join the Byrd. We are confident in her ability to lead the organization through the current times and into a successful future.” Said, Ted Haynes, Byrd Theatre Foundation President.

“In my experience, Stacy Shaw is a talented arts administrator who brings an amazing amount of knowledge, passion, and heart to everything she undertakes.  I have no doubt that she will bring that same energy to the Byrd Theatre and its mission.“ Sarah Chaplin, former Executive Director of The National Theatre and current President and CEO of The State Theatre of New Jersey.

While the Governor’s Phase 3 opening date is July 1st, the Byrd Theatre will remain closed for now. Shaw has worked with the Board of Directors to make the decision to remain closed and focus internally on updating cleaning and seating protocols to meet COVID-19 standards. This is a difficult financial decision, continued closure means operating funds are slim, but the increased cost to open and operate the theatre under the COVID-19 standards make the margins challenging. The Theatre was fortunate to get a PPP loan early on that allowed the Theatre to continue paying the primarily part-time staff until mid-June when the funds ran out.

Stacy Shaw said, “We have already reached out to our wonderful patrons for their input to make sure they feel confident about their attendance at the Byrd as well as following updates on cleaning protocols. We are particularly fortunate that the Byrd has a large seating area that social distancing is easily accomplished when compared to the movie theatres of today. Meanwhile, we are utilizing this time to do as much cleaning, updating, and capital improvements as possible. One of the most exciting projects has been the completion of a total renovation of the Wurlitzer Piano in the upper left balcony!”

There are capital funds earmarked for Phase Two capital improvements that will begin to happen late summer and into 2021.

Planned Phase Two Capital Improvements include, but are not limited to:

  • Renovation of the women’s restroom
  • Concession area improvements
  • Replacement of the carpet and expansion of the seat replacements
  • A range of replacements of various systems: lighting, mechanicals, PA system
  • Replacement of rear doors
  • A range of front of stage improvements
  • Further care of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ and Wurlitizer Piano

Stacy Shaw said, “I am excited to be part of the organization and to be joining at such a pivotal moment in time.” With Phase Two fundraising underway, Shaw also said, “We looking forward to the next multi-year phase of restoration and growth. The Foundation will be expanding its philanthropic efforts to meet the estimated goal of $2.4 million and to offer donors a range of unique naming and commemorative options.”

Phase One projects replaced the roof as well as heating and cooling systems; installed a digital server and state-of-the-art 4K projector; organ repairs; restored historic plasterwork and center seats; and created a wheelchair accessible seating area and ADA family restroom.

While closed, the Byrd Theatre is not bringing in operating funds, therefore, the theatre is actively looking for creative ways to bring film out into the community. Look for the Byrd Theatre to partner with different organizations and spaces for drive-in and other movie night type events throughout the summer and fall. The Virtual Screening Room will remain up and active as well, bringing new films not able to be seen on the big screen to your living room. Renting a film from the Byrd Theatre Virtual Screening Room supports the theatre while you enjoy a film!

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Well known local tattoo artist auctioning off mural of George Floyd adorning Carytown shop

“I didn’t really want to board up my business, but it was recommended so we decided to follow suit,” he says. “After we put it up, I thought, there’s a surface that needs to be decorated. I didn’t want to just write ‘Black Lives Matter’ all over everything. I wanted to create something that was more impactful.”

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The City of Richmond has remained an apex of the evolving Black Lives Matter movement. The city is known for its statues and monuments honoring leaders from the Civil War era, but also its prolific and progressive artist community who have come together to deploy a series of creative and uplifting responses during the past month. This includes the owner of Loose Screw Tattoo, Jesse Smith.

When the rest of his Carytown business neighbors boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of predicted riots and looting, Smith followed recommendations and added plywood to the front of his tattoo shop.

“I didn’t really want to board up my business, but it was recommended so we decided to follow suit,” he says. “After we put it up, I thought, there’s a surface that needs to be decorated. I didn’t want to just write ‘Black Lives Matter’ all over everything. I wanted to create something that was more impactful.”

Smith snagged up a couple of cans of spray paint he had laying around in his garage and headed over to his shop. The mural took four hours in total to complete. His George Floyd portrait is one of many new murals related to the Black Lives Matter movement in Richmond. Other mural artists who have added color to the city include Hamilton Glass, Nico Cathcart, Nils Westergard, Emily Herr, and many other artists who have come together to be a part of the Mending Walls Project. Artists around the country have also marked buildings and landmarks with designs, words, and other calls to action.

Smith’s mural will be up for auction to benefit Mutual Aid Disaster Relief – Richmond (MAD RVA) starting July 7. The network launched in 2018 in response to needs associated with public housing.

“We operate collectively and are primarily functioning as a supply delivery for folks who cannot access medicine, food, cleaning supplies, and other life necessities,” says member Tamanna Sohal.

MAD RVA also has a mini-grants program that provides communty members with direct financial aid of up to $125, prioritizing Richmonders who are Black, brown, queer, trans, immuno-compromised, elderly, pregnant, and/or have several people in their household. All funds raised are redistributed through items for their supply drive and mini-grants.

The auction is presented by the Giving Arts Foundation (GAF), founded by Smith. The mission of GAF is to unite the arts community to support urgent and meaningful causes locally and internationally.

Learn more about MAD RVA here.

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