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Tyrant Lizard King to Take the Throne at Science Museum of Virginia

On Saturday, June 19, the Science Museum of Virginia opens “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family,” the world’s first exhibition showcasing the recently revised tyrannosaur family tree.

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From the Science Museum of Virginia

With its 60 plus razor-sharp teeth, bone-crushing jaws and starring role in a blockbuster film series, T. rex is arguably the world’s most popular dinosaur. But there’s more to the aptly named “tyrant lizard king” than many people know. And not only that, T. rex is just one of more than 25 different tyrannosaurs!

Photo Credit: Durham Museum

On Saturday, June 19, the Science Museum of Virginia opens “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family,” the world’s first exhibition showcasing the recently revised tyrannosaur family tree. Guests will see a dramatic array of fossils and casts of tyrannosaur specimens, run for their life in a virtual experience, hatch a dinosaur egg and more in this immersive, multimedia exhibition that sheds new light on these ancient carnivores.

The highlight of the show is coming face to face with the life-sized Scotty. Discovered in 1991, she is the heaviest and oldest T. rex currently on record at almost 20 feet tall, nearly 40 feet long and tipping the scales at more than 19,000 lb.

“Earth has a vast and diverse history, and scientists are always making new discoveries,” said Director of Playful Learning and Inquiry Timshel Purdum. “Science is not a set of facts to be memorized, rather it is an ongoing journey of understanding the world. No place is this more evident than with dinosaurs. Our knowledge continuously changes and expands. This touring exhibition has a wealth of new information about the fascinating tyrannosaur family that will amaze both dinosaur fanatics like myself and casual science lovers.”

Just as similar genetic characteristics exist among extended relatives, guests will learn about traits specific to tyrannosaurs, such as fused nasal bones, D-shaped teeth in cross section, a special type of hip bone and longer hind limbs. But, also just like human family trees, there is incredible variety among tyrannosaurs: some were huge, some small; some lived 168 million years ago, some live 68 million years ago; and some lived on Asia, some lived in North America.

The exhibition allows guests to travel back in time millions of years to meet Guanlong wucaii, a feathery relative of the T. rex, see how recent scientific findings confirm the links between dinosaurs and birds, and learn more about why sudden environmental devastation can cause even the most dominant species to go extinct.

Photo Credit: Durham Museum

In addition to the “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” touring exhibition, the Museum will feature another dinosaur-focused exhibition as well as an array of prehistoric-related programming.

  • Art can show us how what we know about dinosaurs has changed over time. “Bringing the Dead to Life” explores the evolution of dinosaur science through the lens of paleoart. From early impressions of lizard-like creatures to modern examples of brightly colored beasts, this exhibition illustrates how our perceptions of dinosaurs continue to evolve with every discovery. “Bringing the Dead to Life” is included with Museum admission.
  • Beginning June 2, guests can take their dinosaur discovery to the big screen by seeing “Dinosaurs Alive” in The Dome. This giant screen film is a global adventure, bringing the earliest creatures of the Triassic Period to the monsters of the Cretaceous Period, their behaviors and their ancient environments roaring to life. “Dinosaurs Alive” can be added to a Museum visit for $5.
  • In July, August and September, the Museum’s makerspace, The Forge, will feature fossil casting, dinosaur sculpting and robotic dinosaur workshops so guests can get creative and hands-on with their learning.
  • Educators will have various fossils on display for guests to see how modern animals have some of the same traits as prehistoric creatures.
  • The Art Lab will have special dinosaur-related activities so guests can draw new conclusions about the ancient reptiles.
  • The Museum’s in-house theater company will feature a costumed actor greeting guests at various times throughout the summer. Mary Anning, a 19th-century paleontologist who discovered the bones of giant reptiles in the cliffs along the English Channel, or Susie, who has set off to prove that the T. rex was truly a predator and not just a scavenger as some scientists claimed, will be making periodic appearances throughout the galleries.
  • The Museum’s weekly Lunch Break Science series will feature free virtual presentations by paleontologists and scientists across the country who will share information about the latest dinosaur discoveries.
  • Guests can stop in the Museum’s Rotunda to admire the impressive size, examine the powerful jaw and count the massive teeth of a nearly five-foot-long T. rex skull replica. This is on view for all guests and does not require admission.
  • The paleo fun doesn’t have to go extinct when guests leave the building. The Museum will be releasing new digital content, such as videos and STEM at Home activities, for all Virginians to enjoy virtually.

During regular Museum operating hours (9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.), admission to “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” is available through a combination ticket that includes access to the exhibition as well regular Museum exhibits. Admission is $20.50 for adults; $18.50 for youth (ages 6 – 12) and seniors (ages 60 and older); and $15 for preschool-aged children (ages 3 – 5). Discounts are available for teachers, military personnel and EBT cardholders. Museum members receive free admission to the exhibition. Tickets go on sale June 1 at smv.org.

Not only is the Museum reopening seven days a week when “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” debuts, but to give guests even more chances to see the exhibition while it’s in Richmond, the Museum is also offering extended hours June 24 through September 30. On Thursdays and Fridays, the Museum will remain open until 8 p.m. “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” will be the only experience open after 5 p.m., and admission is only $10 during those evenings.

“Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family,” which was created by the Australian Museum and toured internationally by Flying Fish, is at the Museum through October 3, 2021.

“Dinosaurs are going to come crashing out of the past and into the present as they overrun Richmond this summer and fall,” said Purdum. “It’s the perfect opportunity to take a bite out of science!”

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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2nd Street Festival Announces 2021 Headliner Plunky & Oneness

For over 50 years, Richmond saxophonist, songwriter and producer J. Plunky Branch has been at the vanguard of Afro-centric jazz, funk, R&B, house music, and go-go, weaving these interrelated musical forms into a forward-looking message of empowerment, positivity, and cultural awareness.

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The 2nd Street Festival will return this fall, live and in person, Saturday – Sunday, October 2-3. Marking its 33rd year, the festival celebrates the rich culture of the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood in Downtown Richmond. This FREE event is produced by Venture Richmond Events.

Over the years, it has grown to be one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest street festivals. In 2019, thousands visited historic Jackson Ward to reminisce about the days when 2nd Street was the heart and soul of Richmond’s African-American community and was known as “the Harlem of the South.” Today, Jackson Ward continues to be a thriving neighborhood and community. The 2nd Street Festival is an annual celebration and homecoming over two days that features three stages of live musical entertainment along with a Kidz Zone, popular food vendors, a marketplace and Artists Row to shop, and the Richmond Metropolitan Antique Car Club.

This year the festival features headliner Plunky & Oneness on Saturday, October 2. Many other great artists will be showcased over the two-day event.

Saturday’s Headliner, Plunky & Oneness

J. Plunky Branch
For over 50 years, Richmond saxophonist, songwriter and producer J. Plunky Branch has been at the vanguard of Afro-centric jazz, funk, R&B, house music, and go-go, weaving these interrelated musical forms into a forward-looking message of empowerment, positivity, and cultural awareness. As a native Richmonder, he was mentored by local R&B musicians and music educators, including jazz violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr.

Along with his band, Plunky & Oneness, he has appeared in concert with some of the biggest names in Black music, including Patti Labelle, Ray Charles, Earth Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly & Maze, LL Cool J, Chuck Brown, and more. His song “Every Way But Loose” was a top-ten soul music chart hit in London in the 1980’s and his hit single, “Drop,” was released in 2007. He also wrote “2nd Street Jaunt,” a song that Venture Richmond used in TV commercials promoting the 2019 festival.

In addition to being a veteran saxophonist, J. Plunky Branch has served as an administrator, lecturer and teacher. Plunky is a two-time recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowships and in 2017 was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force for the Promotion of the Arts in Virginia. Throughout his career Plunky has entertained and taught thousands, and in the process, has developed a broad and loyal following.

More information on the 2nd Street Festival and additional artists performing will follow later this summer as we continue to follow CDC and state guidelines for Covid-19 protocol for large outdoor events. A commitment to safety and adherence to local, state, and federal ordinances and guidelines is crucial.

For up-to-date information about the 2nd Street Festival, please visit: https://venturerichmond.com/our-events/2nd-street-festival-2021/

The 2nd Street Festival is presented by Dominion Energy, Altria, NewMarket Corp., and the City of Richmond

The 2nd Street Festival is sponsored by Virginia Union University, Brown Distributing, CoStar
Group, Community Foundation, Radio One Richmond, NBC12 and CW Richmond

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New murals add a splash of color to Willow Lawn

A mural project recently wrapped up at Willow Lawn, where several new murals painted by acclaimed Richmond-based muralist Ed Trask are on display throughout the shopping center.  

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A mural project recently wrapped up at Willow Lawn, where several new murals painted by acclaimed Richmond-based muralist Ed Trask are on display throughout the shopping center.

Richmond-based marketing agency Rocket Pop and Trask collaborated on the design of the murals, which represent Richmond, the history of Willow Lawn, and birds, a common element in Richmond’s populated mural scene.

The project incorporates Richmond skylines and the James River – acknowledging Richmond is known as the river city – and the Blue Ridge mountains.

“There is no better means to connect with people than through art,” said Deirdre Johnson, Vice President of Asset Management.  “This mural provides a unique photo opportunity by featuring elements of the community, environment, and history while engaging with customers as they enter the property from Monument Avenue.”

Willow Lawn, Richmond’s first shopping center, originally opened in 1956. “We incorporated the Willow Lawn arch signage from the 1960s as a nod to the long-standing history of the center,” says Cara Dickens, president of Rocket Pop. “For many Richmonders, Willow Lawn is a nostalgic landmark.”

The birds are meant to give a lighthearted, cheerful vibe. Trask often incorporates birds into his murals and specifically incorporated Virginia’s state bird, the cardinal, into the Willow Lawn project.

“Birds represent everything from environmental health to freedom to a sense of place, but in Richmond, they often convey the fact that Richmond is an urban city with a ton of green space, nature, parks, rivers – a connectedness to the nature around us,” says Trask. “I often use birds to convey a connection to nature, but also the direction the bird is facing is very purposeful in my work…they are looking toward what I want the viewer to look toward.”

Lighting elements were added to the mural to provide a three-dimensional component to the project. The mural design started in May of 2020 and was completed in June of 2021.

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Patrick Patrong named VMFA’s new Chief Diversity Officer

As Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives, Patrong will assist in leading EDIA strategies defined in VMFA’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and co-lead the museum’s commitment to the ONE Virginia Plan recently launched by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM).

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the appointment of Patrick Patrong to the position of Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives. Patrong comes to VMFA with more than 25 years of experience as a public service leader.

Currently the lead facilitator for his consulting firm, Patrong Enterprises, Inc., he has also worked as Construction Training Manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation and Director of the Training, Education and Exercise Division for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. In addition, he led organizational diversity initiatives for seven professional schools of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, while serving as Director of Organization and Employee Development.

“Patrick has a solid background in implementing and managing diversity programs at several agencies in the public sector. We are delighted to have someone with his extensive experience joining the museum’s human resources team,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Patrick will play a leading role taking VMFA’s EDIA initiatives to the next level and ensuring that the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility are fully integrated into everything the museum does and shared with all VMFA employees.”

As Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives, Patrong will assist in leading EDIA strategies defined in VMFA’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and co-lead the museum’s commitment to the ONE Virginia Plan recently launched by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM).

For more than a decade, VMFA has actively worked to diversify its collection, exhibitions, staff and audience. Building on the success of its previous strategic plan, the museum strives to become a more vibrant, inclusive cultural leader. The museum’s current strategic plan demonstrates its commitment to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. VMFA’s vision is to be an institution that empowers all Virginians — through art and creativity — to reflect and connect to each other, their communities and the wider world.

“I am excited to join the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts team, to work with employees and the museum’s community on expanding the institutional EDIA initiatives. VMFA’s diverse organizational culture already has unique advantages when it comes to attracting diverse staff and visitors and developing museum exhibitions, art collections and programs that appeal to diverse communities,” said Patrong. “Communication, idea generation, creativity and connectivity are all enhanced through engagement with the museum’s representative communities.”

“Patrick’s knowledge and experience will help VMFA continue to advance towards instilling EDIA values and practices, becoming a more valuable and relevant community resource, and providing even greater access to the arts for all people in the Commonwealth,” said Kimberly Wilson, VMFA’s Chief Operating Officer and CHRO/Deputy Director for Human Resource Services, Museum Operations and Volunteers.

Patrong will begin his position at VMFA on July 26. For more information about VMFA’s strategic plan and EDIA initiatives visit www.VMFA.museum.

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