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‘Black Space Matters’ exhibit transforms asphalt lot behind VCU ICA into garden

A local activist transformed a vacant lot outside the Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond to highlight issues of food security and the importance of Black and brown community spaces.

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By India Espy-Jones

A local activist transformed a vacant lot outside the Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond to highlight issues of food security and the importance of Black and brown community spaces.

The “Commonwealth” exhibit at Virginia Commonwealth University’s ICA features work from 10 artists including an outdoor installation created by activist and community farmer Duron Chavis who builds gardens throughout Richmond. The full exhibit seeks to examine how common resources influence the wealth and well-being of communities.

Chavis proposed the resiliency garden exhibit in 2019 during a public forum at the ICA. The resiliency garden—food grown to weather the tough times and to have food independence— is installed in an asphalt lot at Grace and Belvidere streets next to the ICA and features 30 raised beds of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

An extension of the garden exhibit is the “Black Space Matters” mural by Southside artist Silly Genius. A wall in the lot is painted, with fruit making the word Black and beneath the garden in big, yellow letters is “Space Matters.” The garden beds have historic quotes from civil rights leaders Kwame Ture and Malcolm X, among other activists.

“Black Space Matters means that Black people need space,” Chavis said. “We need space that is explicitly designed, planned, and implemented by Black and brown people.”

Chavis, along with a crew of volunteers, started building the garden on Aug. 10 while the ICA temporarily closed to install other exhibits.

“We invited him to think with us about how to activate a vacant lot next to the ICA,” said Stephanie Smith, ICA chief curator. “You could think about what it means to take a space and institutional resources, then give them over to an activist.”

Chavis seeks to address the lack of food access through his activism. Food insecurity, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food,” is an issue in Richmond’s low-income neighborhoods. The city had over 35,000 food insecure people in 2018, according to Feeding America, a network of more than 200 food banks.

“In a conversation about food justice, Black people are predominately impacted by lack of food access,” Chavis said. “We need space to address that issue.”

Low-income communities need access to resources and necessary skills to solve food wealth issues on their own, he said.

“We do not need anybody to come into our community to drop off food,” Chavis said.

He’s been doing work like this since 2012 and doesn’t have a hard count of how many garden beds have been built.

“Dozens, oh god, it’s all across the city,” he said.

Chavis amplified his efforts this year because of the pandemic. He fundraised and received a grant, according to a VPM report, to build over 200 resiliency gardens with the help of volunteers.

Quilian Riano, an architect at New York studio DSGN AGNC, designed the concept drawing for the ICA garden, which was envisioned as a public space for conversation and lecture. The completed garden is near identical to the original design except with an added texture and dimension, Riano said.

 The “Commonwealth” exhibit will be open until Jan. 17, 2021. After the exhibit ends, the gardens’ supplies and plants will be redistributed to other resiliency garden project locations throughout Richmond. Chavis collaborates with other groups and people to help people grow their own food during the pandemic.

Tickets to the indoor exhibitions can be reserved on the ICA website. Exhibits include a video performance by indigenous artist Tanya Lukin Linklater, Carolina Caycedo’s “Distressed Debt” and a sculpture by Lukin Linklater and Tiffany Shaw-Collinge.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Arts & Entertainment

Photos: Juneteenth Reggae at Hardywood and Diamond Flea Market

On Sunday we took our camera to check out Mighty Joshua performing at the Hardywood Juneteenth Celebration and then walked around the Diamond Flea Market.

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The Diamond Flea Market will be back in action on July 17th.

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Richmond Folk Festival announces first group of artists for 2022 festival

The Richmond Folk Festival returns October 7-9, 2022, and celebrates its 18th anniversary, having become one of Virginia’s largest events

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The Richmond Folk Festival returns October 7-9, 2022, and celebrates its 18th anniversary, having become one of Virginia’s largest events. The beloved festival draws fans each year to downtown Richmond’s riverfront to celebrate the roots, richness, and variety of American culture through music, dance, traditional crafts, storytelling, and food.

The free, three-day event hosts 200,000 people over the weekend and is presented by Venture Richmond Events in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the Virginia Folklife Program, the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, Children’s Museum, and the City of Richmond.

Featuring six stages and showcasing music and dance from more than 30 performing groups from around the nation and the world, the Richmond Folk Festival today announces eight artists of what will once again be a culturally diverse and impressive program.

“We are looking forward to showcasing downtown Richmond’s ever-changing riverfront once again for a beautiful weekend of music, dance, food, and crafts with the James River and our city skyline as the perfect backdrop,” said Stephen Lecky, director of events at Venture Richmond. “This event holds a special place in the hearts of so many, and year 18 is shaping up to be one of the best.”

Artists to be featured at the 2022 Richmond Folk Festival include:

Beòloach (Cape Breton)
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Black Umfolosi (a cappella imbube singing)
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Bnat el Houariyat & Esraa Warda (Moroccan chaabi women’s ensemble)
Marrakech, Morocco, and New York, New York

Cedric Burnside (hill country blues)
Holly Springs, Mississippi

Fran Grace (sacred steel guitar)
Toledo, Ohio

Korean Performing Arts Institute of Chicago (pungmul and samulnori)
Chicago, Illinois

Sideline (bluegrass)
Raleigh, North Carolina

Son Rompe Pera (Mexican marimba)
Naucalpan de Juárez, Mexico

Festival Hours

  • Friday, October 7 — 6:30pm – 10:00pm
  • Saturday, October 8 — 12:00pm – 9:30pm
  • Sunday, October 9 — 12:00pm – 6:00pm

More information on the festival and additional artists performing will follow later this summer.

For more information about the Richmond Folk Festival, visit www.richmondfolkfestival.org.

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Friday Cheers Becomes Friday Tears as Weather Postpones the Show

For the second time this year weather has stopped the Friday concert from taking place.

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Message from Venture Richmond

Friday Cheers, RVA Music Night, is postponed due to severe weather concerns.
New date announced soon.
 
For the safety of our patrons, artists, and staff we must unfortunately postpone Friday Cheers on May 27, RVA Music Night, with Matthew E. White, Benét, and The Last Real Circus. We are working to reschedule the local bands to play later in the summer and will keep you informed as to the new date.
 
For Friday Cheers ticket holders, tickets will be valid for the rescheduled event, or contact Tickets-to-Buy for the face value within 14 business days.
 
Thank you for understanding this difficult decision.

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