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History

The Valentine Museum and “Reclaiming the Monument” receive historic grant

The Valentine Museum and Reclaiming the Monument are the recipients of a $670,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Monuments Project.

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The Valentine Museum and Reclaiming the Monument are the recipients of a $670,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Monuments Project. The Monuments Project is an unprecedented $250 million commitment by the Mellon Foundation to transform the nation’s commemorative landscape by supporting public projects that more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories.

The Valentine has collaborated with Reclaiming the Monument founders and artist Dustin Klein (Technical Director) and Alex Criqui (Creative Director) to support the “Recontextualizing Richmond” public art project. This project, which will take place in 2022, will focus on the creation of a series of temporary light-based artworks addressing issues of historical, racial, and social justice in Richmond, Virginia, and the surrounding capital region.

“The Richmond story is America’s story. This project will bring new stories to light and encourage us to take a fresh look at our City’s history,” said Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Museum. “We are excited to support the work of Reclaiming the Monument over the coming year. Richmond’s history has national significance and this grant from the Mellon Foundation recognizes the important opportunity we have to elevate it.”

Both organizations look forward to bringing visuals, conversations, and dialogue to the Richmond community, using primary source materials from the Valentine’s collection and other historical resources. For the Valentine, this is a unique opportunity to gather community feedback and support future projects at the museum.

The light installations, are intended to raise awareness about the neglected histories in our community as it continues to grapple with the complicated legacies of our past and how its telling has been used to shape and influence our present and future.

The collaborative nature of the project will create a greater dialogue between grassroots organizations, artists, historical institutions, and the general public that will lay a foundation for how public art involving historical memory can be created in a way that is inclusive and community-driven.

“It is our hope that by providing an opportunity for our community to engage with a more complete telling of our history through the power of public art that we will be able to help our city heal and move towards a future rooted in peace, justice, and equality,” said Alex Criqui, Creative Director for Reclaiming the Monument.

Recontextualizing Richmond will also produce educational resources that will be accessible to educators and students.

Additional information and details related to Reclaiming the Monument installations will be made available in early 2022. The Valentine and Reclaiming the Monument are committed to ensuring a safe and engaging event series for the Richmond community.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.

History

New book on Lewis Ginter is a fictionalized take on his real-world love affair with a younger man

Ginter’s naming of a street that intersects Hermitage Road in the Lakeside neighborhood “Pope” was perhaps the only visible sign of his affection during his living years.

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Lewis Ginter has often been referenced as “the greatest Richmonder of all time.” That attribution speaks to the man’s accomplishments, having built a thriving Tobacco business after the Civil War and set the Virginia Economy on a path toward prosperity and acclaim for decades to come. Among his ‘firsts’ were the introduction of Trading Cards, the employment of women, and a cooperative mindset for local suppliers to reduce costs for both parties.

His other achievements included several infrastructure projects that created neighborhoods, parks, and churches. He was the initial investor in what became Virginia Power, and his trolley system was the first continually operating public transport of its kind in North America. He financed and built the only five-star hotel in Richmond: The Jefferson. He named it for his childhood idol.

Despite all of his successes, he refused to have any statues of himself and would not allow his name to be used for any of his projects. During his lifetime, there were no streets, buildings, neighborhoods, or parks named for him. His one tribute was the naming of a street that intersects Hermitage Road in the Lakeside neighborhood: Pope.

This simple gesture is the only public indication that Lewis was in fact head over heels in love with a younger man. After having met John Pope in Manhattan, Lewis expended a lot of effort to find the young man and convince the teenager’s family to allow John a chance of success in Richmond. From the time they connected as colleagues, they were also beginning a decades-long romantic ‘friendship’ that we now understand as love.

A new local book series is hoping to shed light on some of his more personal details. Ginter’s Pope, local author John Musgrove’s first novel, is a detailed accounting of their relationship. While it is Historical Fiction, the saga is based on the true-life events that made their love story a touching, heartbreaking tale of two men that loved one another in a time when there were no words for such a relationship. This is book one in the Reticent Richmond series.

This book is the first in a planned series of four. The next volume, Mary’s Grace will expand upon Grace Arents (Ginter’s Niece and heir) and her girlfriend, Mary Garland Smith. Book three, Garland’s Legacy details the forty years of patronage that Garland lavished on Richmond. The last book, George’s Race, tells the story of George Arents, a racecar driver that left his wife for a man that stole his heart on the racetrack. All are based on real-life people, events, and sagas from the same family.

The author, John Musgrove, is an information security analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He has graduated five times from VCU, holding a BS and MS in Information Systems, and Post Baccalaureate Certificates in Instructional Technology, Nonprofit Management, and Geospatial Information Systems. He served as a Navy Corpsman, supporting the Marine Corps and did a tour of duty for Desert Storm. 

Ginter’s Pope is available through most retailers in paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats. Click here to learn more.

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Arts & Entertainment

University of Richmond Museums present three new exhibitions

For the first time since early spring 2020, University of Richmond Museums is presenting three new exhibitions, all of which are open to the public. Museums reopened to the community in March 2022.

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For the first time since early spring 2020, University of Richmond Museums is presenting three new exhibitions, all of which are open to the public. Museums reopened to the community in March 2022.

“We’re delighted to welcome the campus and the greater Richmond communities back to our spaces, with a slate of exhibitions and programs that showcase student scholarship and creativity and artistic innovators of our time,” said Elizabeth Schlatter, interim executive director. “We will also welcome numerous faculty and students to our exhibitions this semester as part of their course work in our continuing efforts to advance the educational mission of the University.”

The three new exhibitions, which open to the public next week include:

  • Duane Michals: The Portraitist
  • Therefore I Am: Portraits from the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center
  • Annual Student Exhibition

University of Richmond Museums are free and open to the public, no appointment necessary. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and Thursday from 1-7 p.m. For more information about directions, exhibitions, and programs, visits museums.richmond.edu.

Exhibition details include:

Duane Michals: The Portraitist is on view in the Harnett Museum of Art, located in the Modlin Center for the Arts, Aug. 24 through Nov. 18.

The exhibition presents the first comprehensive overview of inventive photographic portraits by one of the medium’s most influential artists. Best known as a pioneer who broke away from established traditions of documentary photography in the 1960s, Michals is widely recognized for his ability to navigate between imposing his style and allowing his sitters to express themselves, and for the sequences he assembles to convey personal visual narratives, often adding handwritten messages and poems on the photographic print surface.

More than 125 portraits are included in the exhibition, many of which were recently discovered in a workroom in his brownstone building in New York City. Frequently commissioned to create portraits of actors, writers, musicians, and others, among the wide-ranging selection for the exhibition are images of artist Andy Warhol with his mother Julia Warhola, musicians Benny Goodman and Branford Marsalis, the original cast of “Saturday Night Live”, and actors Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton.

Therefore I Am: Portraits from the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center is on view in the Modlin Center for the Arts Atrium and Booker Hall Aug. 24 through July 7, 2023.

The exhibition presents a selection of portraits spanning six centuries and examines the various roles that portraiture has played in portraying the identity of the sitter. Historically, portraiture has been used by society’s elite to communicate messages of power, prosperity, and beauty. With recent advances in technology such as digital cameras and smartphones, portraiture has become omnipresent in society today. The exhibition encourages the viewer to think about how we consume and interact with portraiture in our everyday lives, whether it be scrolling through group photos on social media or taking a selfie.

Highlighted artworks include Reigning Queens (Queen Beatrix) by Andy Warhol, a portrait of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands that belongs to a screen print series featuring four ruling queens of the 1980s. Reigning Queens, with its bold color blocks and larger than life composition, exemplifies the allure of the celebrity portrait in a Pop Art style.

The Annual Student Exhibition will be on view Aug. 24 through Sept. 22 in the Harnett Museum of Art. Selected by the visual arts faculty, the exhibition features work by visual media and arts students during the University’s 2021-22 academic year. About 30 artworks are in the exhibition, which range from mixed media and video to sculpture and printmaking.

Exhibits that remain on view include:

Gee’s Bend Prints: From Quilts to Prints is on view through July 7, 2023 in the Modlin Center Booth Lobby.

The prints in this exhibition are inspired by the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. African American women of this remote community have created hundreds of quilts for more than a century. The quilts have been recognized as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced,” as noted by Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times art critic.

Several of the younger generations of quilters have made etchings based on small-scaled maquette quilts. Collaborating with master printers at Paulson Fontaine Press in Berkeley, California, the artists used innovative techniques to transfer the quilt design to an etching that highlights the strong patterns, textures, and compositions of traditional Gee’s Bend quilts. The artists featured in the exhibition include Louisiana Bendolph, Loretta Pettway, Mary Lee Bendolph, and Essie Bendolph Pettway.

Cabinet of Curiosity Reimagined: Museum Studies Seminar is on view through May 5, 2023, in the Department of Art & Art History.

Cabinets of curiosity, or “wunderkammer,” were the primary mode of displaying collections among European royals and aristocrats from the mid-16th through mid-18th centuries, showcasing natural specimens, cultural artifacts, and works of art. These cabinets fell out of fashion with the advent of scientific classification and museum development in the 18th and 19th centuries. In response to the resurgence of the cabinet display format in the modern museum world, this exhibition examines the purpose and power of museums –– their developing methods of collection and curation over time, often controversial acquisition of objects, and ability to inspire and influence audiences.

The cabinet features selected works of art and natural specimens from the collections of the Lora Robins Gallery.

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Arts & Entertainment

14th-century Japanese hanging scroll conserved at VMFA with grant from the Sumitomo Foundation

Newly-restored ancient scroll returns to public viewing for the first time in more than a decade

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has announced that conservation of a 14th-century Japanese scroll painting in the museum’s collection, Standing Arhat, has been completed with grant support from the Sumitomo Foundation in Japan. The Sumitomo Foundation grant awarded to the museum is specifically intended for the protection, preservation and restoration of cultural properties outside Japan.

“Standing Arhat is one of the earliest and most important Buddhist paintings in our permanent collection. It is essential that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts preserves such great works of art so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come,” said VMFA’s Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. “We appreciate the generous support from the Sumitomo Foundation for this conservation project.”

The painting on silk portrays an arhat, an enlightened follower of Shakyamuni Buddha, standing with his hands clasped in prayer, and his facial expression conveying inner spirit, sincerity and devotion. The arhat’s youthful face suggests that he represents Ananda, a great disciple of Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, who lived in India in the 6th century BC. This painting is a rare, surviving image of Ananda.

“The fine brushwork and the floral pattern on the lining of the monk’s mantle reveal the Chinese prototype of 14th-century imagery and textile design,” said Li Jian, VMFA’s E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of East Asian Art. “Such depiction reflects the cross-cultural influence and exchange between Japan and China in the early 14th century.”

Standing Arhat was acquired from an art dealer in Kyoto in 1962 by Virginia architect and art collector Albert Hinckley Jr., who gifted it to VMFA ten years later, in 1972. Due to its fragile and unstable condition, this scroll has not been exhibited in the museum’s East Asian gallery for more than a decade. During the past 20 years, VMFA has invited conservators and scholars to examine the painting, document its condition and propose conservation treatment methods.

The funding from the Sumitomo Foundation provided for the cleaning, restoration and remounting of the painting, work performed by Nishio Conservation Studio in consultation with Debbie Linn, Interim Chief Conservator, and other conservators in VMFA’s Susan and David Goode Center for Advanced Study in Art Conservation over the past year. With the completion of the project, Standing Arhat has returned to the museum and is back on public view in the museum’s Japanese gallery. With the painted scroll displayed alongside Buddhist sculptures and objects, VMFA is able to tell a more comprehensive story of Japanese art and culture.

The digitized image of Standing Arhat is also available worldwide for viewing and research in the museum’s online collection archive on the museum’s website at www.VMFA.museum.

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