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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of History and Culture announce reopening plans

Two prominent Richmond museums have announced plans to reopen under modified operating plans – the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

RVAHub Staff

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Two prominent Richmond museums have announced plans to reopen under modified operating plans – the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

The VMFA’s announcement:

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced it will reopen to the public on Saturday, July 4, 2020; museum members will have early access beginning July 1. With its reopening, the museum will resume its regular operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday until 9 p.m. VMFA’s plans were announced as the City of Richmond entered Phase 2, lifting more COVID-19 related restrictions.

“We appreciate the community’s patience and support while the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was temporarily closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “We are committed to providing a safe, artful experience once again and we’re excited to welcome the community back to VMFA!”

Following the guidance of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the museum will implement safeguards to help ensure the health and well-being of its visitors, staff and volunteers. Wearing face coverings will be required and disposable masks will be provided to those who do not bring their own. To limit the number of people within the museum at one time, visitors will enter through the main entrance near the McGlothlin Wing on the first floor and exit near the Art Education Center located off North Arthur Ashe Boulevard, also on the first floor. Physical distancing must be practiced while inside the museum and outside on VMFA’s grounds. The facilities and campus will be cleaned and sanitized daily, with high-touch areas and restrooms cleaned more frequently. Hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout the museum. Clear acrylic partitions are installed at Visitor Services, in the VMFA Shop, and at all public-facing workstations.

The permanent collection galleries and special exhibitions will be open. The exhibition Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop has been extended through October 18. Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities, a new, ticketed exhibition, will also open to the public on July 4. As Sunken Cities promises to be a popular exhibition, admittance will be timed to maintain physical distancing within the galleries. Due to restrictions on gatherings, group tours cannot be scheduled.

VMFA’s casual dining venue Best Café will operate “grab-and-go” service and provide limited seating, spaced to meet physical-distancing standards. Amuse, VMFA’s fine dining restaurant, will also be open with limited seating; reservations are recommended. The Library, currently being reconfigured to distance workstations and equipment, will reopen to visitors by appointment in September. To maintain physical-distancing standards, a limited number of shoppers will be able to enter the VMFA Shop at one time. Clear acrylic partitions will offer protection during transactions at check-out stations where visitors will be encouraged to use debit cards, credit cards or Apple Pay when purchasing tickets, merchandise, or food at the museum.

For the remainder of the summer, all in-person early childhood programs, kids’ camps, teen camps, and adult studio school classes, as well as K-12-adult guided and self-directed tours are canceled. The museum’s comprehensive online resources, which include art activities, permanent art collections, virtual exhibitions, art history classes and educational programs can be accessed from home through the museum’s website at www.VMFA.museum.

“After weeks of having to keep our galleries closed to the public, we look forward to seeing people return to the museum and rediscover art that consoles, inspires and excites,” said Nyerges.

Complete details about VMFA’s safety measures can be found at www.VMFA.museum/COVID-19.

VMHC’s announcement:

The wait is over – we are excited to announce that the Virginia Museum of History & Culture will re-open to VMHC members on June 27-30 and to all guests on July 1!

Please note that you must purchase a ticket online prior to visiting (free for members; discounted for all others). Please also take time to learn more about our new safety guidelines and other important changes to the museum experience, all designed to help keep you safe. To purchase tickets and learn more, visit VirginiaHistory.org/Tickets.

VMHC Member-Only Preview Days: June 27-30, 2020. Timed tickets during member preview days are available every half hour beginning at 11:00 am with the last entry time at 2:00 pm. (Not a member yet or need to renew? Click here!)
Open to the Public: Beginning July 1, 2020. Timed tickets will be available every half hour starting at 10:00 am with last entry time at 4:30 pm.
We are excited to share with you two new exhibitions:

Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today – Organized in conjunction with the statewide Women’s Suffrage Centennial, this exhibition celebrates a century of women’s social and political activism and the positive changes their work has brought forth in their communities, the Commonwealth, and the nation. Learn more.
A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100 – Explore the colorful, courageous, and impressive history of the Garden Club of Virginia and three generations of activists who have produced a strong statewide voice for conservation, gardening, and education surrounding Virginia’s natural resources and historic landscapes. Learn more.

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Virginia Museum of History & Culture embarks on multi-year, $30 million renovation plans

A new theater, cafe, green space, and interior and exterior renovations are planned as part of the major project, which was expedited because of the pandemic.

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This October, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) will begin a dramatic renovation and expansion project – the most extensive in its long history. Inspired by its vision to better represent and welcome all Virginians and advance its ability to thoughtfully and fully preserve and share the ever-evolving story of Virginia, the museum will invest nearly $30 million in campus and programmatic improvements. In nearly 18 months of construction, the VMHC will be fundamentally reimagined as a more welcoming, guest- and community-centered cultural attraction.

The renewed museum complex of nearly 250,000 square feet will include multiple new exhibitions spaces for long-term and changing exhibitions; a new immersive orientation theater; a new interactive learning space for families; a new research library with a state-of-the-art rare book and manuscript suite, and multiple new education/meeting rooms; a new café, museum store and other amenities; and multiple new and renewed community and event spaces, including a new great hall, a second-floor event terrace, an outdoor event lawn, an expanded parking lot, and an improved VMFA campus connector.

VMHC’s upcoming construction will be a capstone of various expansions and improvements at the museum over the past two decades. It is also a culmination of the VMHC’s focused efforts in recent years to become the state history museum Virginia needs and all Virginians deserve – work that has already resulted in record-setting growth in museum visitation and programmatic activity. Guided by the museum’s ambitious strategic plan, which also called for the museum’s successful rebranding in 2018 as the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, these changes are intended to boldly and meaningfully
reinvent the museum as it looks ahead to its third century of operation and as the United States prepares to commemorate its 250th anniversary.

“As the oldest cultural organization in the Commonwealth and one of the largest and finest history collections in the nation, we take pride in saving and sharing the complex and consequential history of Virginia. We believe in the unparalleled role history plays in creating a strong, healthy, and inspired society. History gives us perspective and empathy – something we all could use more of now and always. History matters,” said VMHC President & CEO Jamie Bosket, “As we – as a nation, state, and community – reckon with our past, it is more important than ever that your state history museum is a community partner that adds great value. The VMHC is excited to embark on this important project on behalf of all Virginians and our shared future.”

Originally planned for 2022, these extensive capital improvements were expedited as part of the VMHC’s strategy to sustain through the current health and financial crisis. Overlapping the planned and subsidized disruption of renovation with the uncontrollable and unplanned challenge of COVID-19 will help the museum endure now and in the future. The VMHC is one of the few major museums in Virginia to survive its public closure.

“Being nimble and moving quickly with the work ahead, we believe we can not only maintain our team and continue to grow our tremendous portfolio of digital history programming, one of the most robust of any like museum, but we will also be able to re-emerge from these challenging times with strength and stability,” said Bosket. A recent national survey of the American Alliance of Museums suggested that as many as one in three American museums may be forced to shutter because of the impacts of COVID-19.

“We also believe that making this investment now is one way that we can do our part to contribute to our collective recovery – providing a new project that will engage dozens of local and regional businesses, and even allow for modest job creation at the museum,” commented Bosket.

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Abstract art installation “Procession” adds colorful new touch to VMFA’s expansive atrium

Visitors to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will notice a large, colorful painting along the elevation of the museum’s Atrium north wall. The expansive new mural, Procession, is the work of Nigerian-born American artist Odili Donald Odita.

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Visitors to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will notice a large, colorful painting along the elevation of the museum’s Atrium north wall. The expansive new mural, Procession, is the work of Nigerian-born American artist Odili Donald Odita. The work, completed on Sept. 20, 2020, can now be viewed in its entirety.

Procession was three years in the making. “The space called out to me when I came to VMFA in 2017,” said Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “I remember walking through the Cochrane Atrium with Stephen Bonadies, VMFA’s Senior Deputy Director for Conservation and Collections, who as a means of introduction offered to walk the building and grounds with me. I immediately thought that the Atrium’s large white wall was ripe for a work of art. I imagined a site-specific work that would activate the Atrium’s light-filled architecture, echoing the Sol LeWitt wall drawing in our Marble Hall. And I immediately thought of Odita’s abstract paintings and installations.” Cassel Oliver previously worked with the artist, curating an exhibition of his work while at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

In October 2018, Odita visited VMFA to view the space and collection. That visit inspired the work’s design—a captivating composition of color and lines. Two months later, the artist presented a study for the mural and in spring 2019, the museum’s Board of Trustees approved its commission. Over the last six weeks from August and into September five artists from the Odita studio drew and then painted Procession, a dynamic expanse of colorful lines, complex patterns, and striations that bend and illuminate the architecture of the space. Odita’s mural heralds the traditions of the Gee’s Bend quilts and African textiles as well as mid-20th century paintings that highlight the deeply resonate practices that have persisted within the African and African Diasporic cultures. And while the work does not shy away from the sociopolitical landscape of the moment, it squarely sets its ideals upon the power of creative expression within an ever-evolving society.

“Odita’s Procession transforms the Atrium,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “This vibrant mural invites viewers to contemplate and have timely, crucial conversations about racial identity and equity, as well as the power of abstract art.”

Odita is slated to return to VMFA to discuss his work next spring. Details about this event as well as a time-lapse video of the six-week installation of Procession will be made available on VMFA’s website, www.VMFA.museum, in the coming weeks.

Odili Donald Odita was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1966. Fleeing the Biafran War, he came with his family to live in the United States the following year. After earning his BFA and MFA at Ohio State University and Bennington College, respectively, he worked as a critic, editor, and writer for art publications and Yale University. He taught at the University of South Florida and Florida State University before taking his current position as associate professor of painting at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

Odita has created site-specific temporary and permanent installations for the United States Mission at the United Nations (NY), the George C. Young Federal Building Courthouse (Orlando, FL), the Birmingham Museum of Art (AL), and the city of Philadelphia (PA), among other locations across the country. His work is also found in the collections of several institutions including the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (NC), the Savannah College of Art and Design (GA), and the New Orleans Museum of Art (LA).

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The Valentine’s popular Controversy/History series returns to address 2020’s impact

The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

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The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

“The Richmond community that entered 2020 is not the same community we find ourselves a part of today,” Valentine Director Martin said. “2020 has truly been a year of historic change, and it only makes sense to use our conversation series Controversy/History to examine those changes, how they have impacted the people of the Richmond Region and what we can do as a community to move forward together.”

Each virtual event will include an exciting lineup of guest speakers discussing contemporary issues and how 2020 has either upended or reinforced Richmond’s history, followed by questions from the audience and action steps for those inspired to get involved.

Here is a complete list of dates and topics:

October 6, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Voting

November 3, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Mental Health

December 1, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Business

January 5, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Education

February 2, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Activism

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