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Richmond’s Institute for Contemporary Art celebrates third anniversary

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art recently celebrated its third anniversary after a year marked by a four-month pandemic closure and declining attendance.

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By Anya Sczerzenie

The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond recently celebrated its third anniversary after a year marked by a four-month pandemic closure and declining attendance.

The institute hosted a “Lunch & Launch” event in late April to commemorate the milestone and to preview upcoming exhibits. Previously featured artists spoke at the event. Guests previewed the upcoming exhibit “It Will Always Come Back to You,” by Cairo-based artist Ibrahim Ahmed, who creates work based on textiles and other mediums. Ahmed’s exhibition will feature a large sculpture commissioned by the ICA.

The institute opened in April 2018 with the exhibition “Declaration,” which featured more than 30 artists and ran through September 2018. “Declaration” was the institute’s first and most well-attended exhibition, according to Dominic Willsdon, ICA executive director. “Declaration” featured the most artists in an ICA exhibition and was the only exhibit to take up the entire institute.

The New York Times previewed the ICA in 2018 and lauded the institute’s potential to grapple with “pressing social issues” from its “historic pivot point” on the corner of a Richmond intersection that “once marked the boundary between Black and white communities.” Almost two years after it opened, USA Today named the ICA a top 10 best new museum—the only art museum on the list.

Willsdon said over the past three years an increasingly large portion of the artwork on display is commissioned specifically for the institute.

“Almost every exhibition involves commissioning new work,” Willsdon said. “The ICA doesn’t just show art of the past but brings new art into the world.”

Attendance at the ICA decreased in the second year of operation. It went down from over 100,000 in its first year to just over 54,000 in the second year, according to the ICA. The attendance figures are from April to April of each year. Willsdon said this was anticipated.

“The second year after a museum opens, it’s going to go down a little bit,” Willsdon said. “It didn’t go down quite as much as it might have.”

The institute’s attendance decreased to just over 10,000 in its third year, mostly because of the four-month closure at the start of the pandemic and the fact that no in-person events were hosted, according to the ICA.

Willsdon considers “Great Force,” which ran in the ICA’s second year, the institution’s keynote exhibit. It featured 24 artists and explored the theme of white and Black racial forces in the United States. It was on display from October 2019 to January 2020.

“Great Force has a special significance for us, in terms of the themes that recur in other exhibitions,” Willsdon said. “I found myself calling it a keynote in terms of the way it embodies what we’re about.”

The ICA has also featured art by VCUarts faculty members, such as Guadalupe Maravilla’s “Disease Thrower.” Maravilla, an assistant professor in the VCU School of the Arts, created the sculptures and banners in the exhibit to discuss themes of illness and immigration.

The ICA has never shown work by VCU students, but Willsdon said it’s “not impossible” that they will do so in the future.

“About half of our visitors are affiliated with VCU,” Willsdon said. “We’re really happy about interest in the student community.”

The ICA also closed in March when other businesses throughout Virginia were shuttered due to COVID-19. It reopened in July 2020. The ICA currently hosts in-person exhibitions as well as online events.

The ICA recently entered into a partnership with Virginia Public Media to create a podcast recording studio and workspace within the institute, though COVID-19 halted construction plans. After several months of online-only programming, construction on the podcasting studio is slated to begin in June and end in August, according to VCU assistant professor Chioke I’Anson. He is the director of the community podcasting space, which will have a soft opening on Sept. 10.

I’Anson aims for the studio to be accessible to people who want to start a podcast but may not have resources such as recording and editing equipment. The studio launched virtually, which has gone well despite the lack of a physical location, I’Anson said.

“We’ve had what we call ‘skill share’ sessions where one person shares their own lessons and everybody talks about it,” I’Anson said. “We have producers’ institutes, where we bring a guest from a podcast network to give a workshop on a particular editing technique.”

I’Anson said the focus has been on Richmond creators, but the center is “open to really anyone with an internet connection.”

Willsdon said his goals for the ICA’s future are to bring in more international artists and experiment with more tactile and interactive exhibits.

“We’ve actually thought more and more about tactile material exhibition,” Willsdon said. “We’re always looking at screens. Museums can be where a different type of experience is offered.”

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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

Richmond Folk Festival Announce Full Schedule

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The Richmond Folk Festival returns to an in-person event as it celebrates its 17th anniversary October 8-10, 2021, inviting fans 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, outdoor event is produced by Venture Richmond Events in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, and the City of Richmond.

Featuring five stages and showcasing music and dance from 30 artists from around the nation and the world, the Richmond Folk Festival today announces the full performance schedule—a captivating mix of cultural traditions, artistic excellence, and individual creativity from some of the nation’s finest traditional artists.

“We are excited to welcome everyone back to Downtown Richmond’s beautiful historic riverfront. We’re doing everything we can to make certain that the Richmond Folk Festival is the same exceptional event you’ve come to know and love,” said Venture Richmond CEO Lisa Sims. “A year and a half into the pandemic, and with a fully approved vaccine available to most of us, we all have tools to help minimize our risks. Those tools include mask wearing for everyone regardless of vaccination status, social distancing wherever possible, and getting your vaccination if you can. Our hope is that everyone will be a Good Neighbor to their fellow attendees by using each of these tools. Our Covid plan is a robust guide to making sure we are all as safe as possible. Our staff, crew, volunteers, and vendors will be masked at the festival — regardless of vaccination status — and all artists will be masked until they are on stage and performing. We hope to see you there!”

Venture Richmond Events continues to closely monitor CDC and Virginia guidelines for COVID-19 protocols for large, in-person outdoor events. A commitment to safety and adherence to local, state, and federal ordinances and recommendations guide all decisions regarding in-person, outdoor events. (see COVID-19 guidelines)

Full Performance Schedule

Read all about the performers at each stage, and see the full weekend event schedule.
Read all about each artist performing, plus audio and video samples.

Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Area and Stage

The Virginia Folklife Area and Stage returns this year with another scintillating lineup of some of the finest traditional artists from across the Commonwealth. After a year away, we’re excited to welcome back some friends who have graced our stage through the years. We’ll revel in the virtuosic bluegrass stylings of Danny Knicely, the lightning quick oyster knife wielding of champion shucking sisters Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd, and the soul stirring and electrifying harmonies of Richmond’s own Legendary Ingramettes. Our 2021 Virginia Folklife Stage will also introduce audiences to a host of gifted artists gracing our stage for the first time. We’ll go honky-tonking with a giant of the Telecaster, Redd Volkaert, move and be moved by the hip hop and bluesy prowess of J Pope and the HearNow and Justin Golden and the Come Up, and get swept up in the frenzy of Corn Tornado, an infectiously raucous bluegrass band led by one of the greatest songwriters ever to come out of Virginia, David “Bluegrass Buddy” Via, reunited for this once in a lifetime performance.

In addition to the musical offerings on the Folklife Stage, the Virginia Folklife Traditional Crafts Area will present MASK, featuring the remarkable Mongolian masks and ceremonial costumes and dance of Arlington, Virginia, resident Gankhuyag “Ganna” Natsag, marking the first time that the Folklife Traditional Crafts Area features the work of a single artist. Ganna is celebrated for recreating all 108 masks associated with the Mongolian Buddhist tsam, a secret and subtle ritual which had been banned by the Communist government in the 1930s along with other tsam religious displays. Ganna’s
artistry has been exhibited to audiences all over the world, including the Dalai Lama himself. For Ganna’s lifetime of work the Mongolian government recently honored him with the title of Cultural Ambassador to the United States.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Area and Stage is produced by the Center for Cultural Vibrancy.

Read all about the artists of the Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Area.

Update to the CarMax Family Area

Due to the highly interactive nature of the activities planned for the CarMax Family Area, the Richmond Folk Festival will not host a family area this year. The CarMax Family Area, produced by the Children’s Museum, is a robust and engaging, much-loved, part of the Festival. However, due to the lack of an approved Covid 19 vaccine for children under 12, we believe cancelling the Family Area activities is best for the safety of our littlest patrons. The Children’s Museum will be back to host the much-loved CarMax Family Area in 2022.

For all information on the festival, please visit RichmondFolkFestival.org. #RVAFolkFest

To make a donation to the Richmond Folk Festival today, Text to Give! Text FOLK to 44321.

The Richmond Folk Festival is produced by Venture Richmond Events, in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, and the City of Richmond.

The Richmond Folk Festival is sponsored by Altria, Dominion Energy, CoStar Group, CarMax, NewMarket Corp., Richmond Times-Dispatch, WestRock, Brown Distributing, Community Foundation, LIDL, Virginia Lottery, Atlantic Union Bank, NBC12 & CW Richmond, VPM, SummitMedia, Hilton Richmond Downtown, ONE Casino + Resort, Amtrak, Children’s Museum, American Civil War Museum, National Park Service, Virginia Humanities, JAMinc., Plan 9 Music, RMC Events, PD Brooks, SmartBox, Virginia Housing, Winn Transportation, House of Hayes, TNT Auto Rental, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia War Memorial.

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Arts & Entertainment

Style Weekly Ending Run

In another blow to independent journalism Style Weekly’s September 8th edition will be their last.

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Style Weekly posted the following on Facebook.

Note from the Editor-in-Chief:
Style Weekly will cease publishing after the Sept. 8 edition. We thank our talented staff for their award-winning efforts and our loyal readers for their support. Thank you, Richmond.
Style Weekly was many folks’ first connection to the arts and music scene in Richmond. All the talented folks that put their time into the publication will be missed.

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Arts & Entertainment

Richmond Folk Festival Announces More Artists

Richmond Folk Festival has nine new artists for you to check out as we wait, with fingers crossed for the return of Folk Fest.

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The Richmond Folk Festival celebrates its 17th anniversary October 8-10, 2021 inviting fans 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, outdoor event is presented by Venture Richmond Events in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, the Children’s Museum, and the City of Richmond.

Featuring six stages and showcasing music and dance from more than 30 artists from around the nation and the world, the Richmond Folk Festival today announces a second group of artists performing at this year’s festival—a program that will again be culturally diverse and artistically excellent, with some of the finest traditional artists performing throughout the weekend.

“We are proud to be back this year on Richmond’s beautiful downtown riverfront,” said Blaine Waide, associate director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts. “From returning favorites to up-and-coming artists making their Richmond debut to traditions like Sicilian traditional music
that we have never presented before, this year’s program lives up to the festival’s reputation for offering a dizzying variety of artistic expressions and experiences—all for free!”

Venture Richmond Events continues to closely monitor CDC and Virginia guidelines for COVID-19 protocols for large outdoor events. A commitment to safety and adherence to local, state, and federal ordinances and recommendations will guide all decisions regarding the festival.(see COVID-19 guidelines)

The nine newly announced artists to be featured at the 2021 Richmond Folk Festival include:

The Brotherhood Singers (African American a cappella gospel quartet singing)
Covington, Kentucky

Donny Broussard & the Louisiana Stars (Cajun)
Kaplan, Louisiana

Jasmine Bell & North Bear (Lakota hoop dance and Northern Plains drum)
Riverton, Wyoming

The Pedro Giraudo Tango Ensemble (Argentine tango)
New York, New York

Rosa Tatuata with Michela Musolino (Sicilian traditional music)
Clifton, New Jersey

Sugaray Rayford (blues)
Los Angeles, California

Taj Weekes (reggae)
St. Lucia by way of New York, New York

Tres en Punto (trío romántico)
Mission, Texas

The Western Flyers (western swing)
Burleson, Texas

The festival’s previously announced artists include:

Joanie Madden & Cherish the Ladies (Irish)
Yonkers, New York

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (bluegrass)
Charlestown, Indiana

Nava Persian Trio (Persian santour)
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Plena Es (bomba y plena)
Sunrise, Florida

Rare Essence (go-go)
Washington, D.C.

Sean Jones “Dizzy Spellz” feat. Brinae Ali (jazz, hip hop, and tap dance)
Baltimore, Maryland

Click here for extended artist bios, plus audio and video samples on our website.

Encore Performances on VPM

Every Saturday at 5:00pm, catch VPM broadcasts of favorite performances from the past 13 years of the Richmond Folk Festival, as well as the three years the city hosted the National Folk Festival (2005-07). Tune in to Richmond public radio VPM stations 107.3 FM & 93.1 FM for great musical memories. Add these shows to your calendar today:

Aug 28 Dale Ann Bradley
Sep 4 Lurie Bell, Andes Manta
Sept 11 Amargue Bachata Quintet with Andre Veloz
Sept 18 Ahava Raba with Yanky Lemmer
Sept 25 Sona Jobarteh
Oct 2 Maggie Ingram, Frank Newsome, The Paschall Brothers, Clinton Fearon

Interactive Scavenger Hunt

From now through Labor Day weekend, the Richmond Folk Festival is offering an interactive scavenger hunt. It takes about an hour or two to complete, and there are two routes from which to choose. The scavenger hunt presents opportunities to notice often-missed public art, learn about history and different cultures, and listen to relevant musical links along the way. Like the festival, both routes include hills, steps, and uneven ground. Those who successfully complete the festival’s scavenger hunt will be entered in drawings for prizes, with winners selected all summer long! The scavenger hunt runs through September 7.

For all details, please visit our website: https://www.richmondfolkfestival.org/scavhuntintro

More information on the festival and additional artists performing this year will follow soon. For
updates, visit www.richmondfolkfestival.org. #RVAFolkFest

To make a donation to the Richmond Folk Festival today, Text to Give! Text FOLK to 44321.

The Richmond Folk Festival is produced by Venture Richmond Events, in partnership with the
National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, the Children’s
Museum, and the City of Richmond.

The Richmond Folk Festival is sponsored by Altria, Dominion Energy, CoStar Group, CarMax,
NewMarket Corp., City of Richmond, WestRock, Brown Distributing, Community Foundation,
Amtrak, LIDL, Virginia Lottery, Atlantic Union Bank, NBC12 & CW Richmond, VPM,
SummitMedia, Hilton Downtown Richmond, ONE Casino + Resort, American Civil War Museum,
National Park Service, Virginia Humanities, JAMinc., Plan 9 Music, RMC Events, PD Brooks,
SmartBox, Virginia Housing, Wells Fargo, Winn Transportation, House of Hayes, TNT Auto
Rental, Federal Reserve Bank, and Virginia War Memorial

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