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VMFA’s original exhibition Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art opens October 8th

The exhibition is the first ever to explore the symbolism of the guitar in American art.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced its upcoming exhibition, Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art, slated to be on view at the museum in Richmond from October 8, 2022 to March 19, 2023. Storied Strings is the first exhibition to explore the guitar’s symbolism in American art from the early 19th century to the present day.

“We expect that Storied Strings, an exhibition that will bring to the fore one of America’s most quintessential emblems — the guitar — will have broad appeal and resonate with our visitors,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Through this multifaceted exhibition, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will highlight the exceptional work of this country’s diverse artists, designers, makers and musicians.”

Curated by Dr. Leo G. Mazow, VMFA’s Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art, Storied Strings will trace how the guitar, as a visual motif, has long enabled artists and their subjects to address topics and tell stories that would otherwise remain untold or under-told.

“As with music, the guitar in visual art is both a storyteller’s companion and a tool through which topics are addressed. The guitar is uniquely capable of symbolizing both poetic and prosaic themes,” said Dr. Mazow. “Because of its portability and relative affordability, the guitar appears in myriad settings and situations. It frequently intersects with matters of race, ethnicity, class, gender and disability, including blindness.”

Composed of 125 works of art created over the span of nearly 200 years, Storied Strings will include paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs and sculptures by prominent American artists such as John Baldessari, Romare Bearden, Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, William Eggleston, Robert Henri, Lonnie Holley, Frances Benjamin Johnston, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Annie Leibovitz, Charles Willson Peale, Ruth Reeves and Julian Alden Weir.

In addition, 35 guitars will punctuate the exhibition, including instruments made by Fender, Gibson, Gretsch and Martin. Featured guitars were played by pioneering musicians who helped shape the American sound including Lulu Belle, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Les Paul and Brian Setzer.

Audio-visual kiosks featuring music and filmed performances will further enhance the visitor experience. A window overlooking an impressive, fully functioning recording studio, installed in the exhibition in partnership with In Your Ear Studios, will enable visitors to view guitarists of national and regional renown as they record songs that demonstrate the power of the instrument to tell stories. Among the musicians confirmed to record in the studio are Tommy Emmanuel, Nels Cline (Wilco), Stephen McCarthy (The Jayhawks) and Yasmin Williams. The resulting videos of their performances will be released regularly on VMFA’s website and YouTube channelas Richmond Sessions ’22–’23.

A comprehensive 276-page exhibition catalogue will be available for sale in the VMFA Shop, online at www.VMFAshop.com and distributed by Penn State University Press. Authored by Dr. Mazow, the catalogue will feature color images of every work of art in Storied Strings and include insightful contributions by Jayson Kerr Dobney, the Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Dr. Phil Deloria, the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University.

For more information about Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art and exhibition related programs, visit VMFA.museum.

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

Arts & Entertainment

PHOTOS: Circle Center Adult Day Services unveils massive new mural

Richmond-based artist Nico Cathcart designed and painted the 75-foot wide mural.

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Local adult services provider Circle Center Adult Day Services will be unveiling an unprecedented work of art to its supporters on Wednesday, December 7th at 8:30 a.m.

Richmond-based artist Nico Cathcart designed and painted the 75’ wide by 18’ tall mural on Circle Center’s building at 4900 West Marshall Street near Willow Lawn. The mural features four people who attend Circle Center.

“It’s simply breathtaking in its size and in how well Nico captured the personalities of Mike, Elizabeth, Banoo, and Winston,” says Heather Turbyne-Pollard, Circle Center’s CEO. Nico collaborated with local artist and photographer Caroline Shelnut to bring her concept to life.

“Once I learned about Circle Center and witnessed the dignity and respect with which they treat everyone who attends their programs, I was inspired,” says Nico. “I reached out to Caroline because of her recent photography series.”

Caroline Shelnut, Creative Arts Coordinator for Hermitage Richmond, has taken over 30 Renaissance-inspired photographs of the residents with whom she works. “What I love about Renaissance art is that it features people of all ages,” said Caroline. She went on to say, “Whenever I photograph older adults, I want them to see themselves the way that I see them, as wonderful, valuable, and beautiful human beings.”

Circle Center’s unveiling will start at 8:30 a.m. on December 7th, rain or shine, and will include Nico signing the mural. In addition, Heather Turbyne-Pollard will interview Nico and Caroline about what Nico calls the “Age and Grace” mural. The four Circle Center participants who served as models will also be in attendance.

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Arts & Entertainment

New book chronicling Richmond’s music scene by local music journalist now available

Richmond music lover and former music journalist Andrew Cothern, better known in Richmond music circles as “RVA Playlist,” has announced the release of his first book, RVA Playlist: Stories from the Richmond, Virginia Music Scene.

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Richmond music lover and former music journalist Andrew Cothern, better known in Richmond music circles as “RVA Playlist,” has announced the release of his first book, RVA Playlist: Stories from the Richmond, Virginia Music Scene.

Cothern has been a music journalist, blogger, show goer, and champion supporter of the Richmond, Virginia music scene for nearly two decades. RVA Playlist: Stories from the Richmond, Virginia Music Scene shares more than 30 different stories of his life covering Richmond’s vibrant music scene from 2006 to 2016.

Highlights include him calling six bands by the wrong name in an interview, being embarrassingly drunk at a growing pop icon’s live performance, and trying to figure out why live music shows never start on time.

From the MashUp web series to Friday Cheers to the Ghost of Pop festival to the multiple RVA Playlist Anniversary Parties and more, this book is Cothern’s love letter to the RVA music scene.

RVA Playlist: Stories from the Richmond, Virginia Music Scene is available now in paperback and eBook. Click here to order online.

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Arts & Entertainment

VMFA acquires extensive photography book collection

“This collection is a transformative donation and has greatly increased our holdings in the subject areas of American and European photography,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the gift of a significant library of more than 2,000 American and European photography books, donated by Barry and Gretchen Singer.

“This collection is a transformative donation and has greatly increased our holdings in the subject areas of American and European photography,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “These books are already proving invaluable to exhibitions developed by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and this gift further supports the museum’s future photography galleries that are being planned as part of our current expansion project.”

Barry Singer has been one of the country’s leading photography gallerists with a prominent gallery in Petaluma, California, specializing in 19th- and 20th-century photography. “A 2019 conversation with Alex at Paris Photo about the future of my large library of photography books led to my decision to give the collection to VMFA,” said Singer. “I knew that the museum would be able to ensure their care and value their importance, and that the books would be fundamental to VMFA’s other collections and exhibitions.”

Several significant monographs and reference books have been added to the general collection at VMFA’s Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library, and many exceptional photography books and periodicals, including first editions and signed copies, are now part of VMFA’s rare book collection. The Singers’ gift includes the first edition of Robert Frank’s The Americans, published as Les Américains by Robert Delpire in 1958, Josef Sudek Fotografie by Czech film and photography critic Lubomír Linhart, published in 1956, and a first edition of Naked City by legendary photojournalist Weegee, published in 1945.

“This donation is especially relevant because the books relate directly to photographs in VMFA’s collection,” said Lee Ceperich, Director of Library and Special Collections at VMFA. “The library exists to support research about the art collection, tell stories and make connections between the art and the widest audience possible.”

Sarah Kennel, the museum’s Aaron Siskind Curator of Photography and Director of the Raysor Center, notes that many of these rare photography books will augment VMFA’s exhibitions. “One of the most important ways that photography has circulated in the past century is through the photo book, so these very rare editions are an exciting expansion to our holdings and allow us to better show how photography has shaped modern culture.” Included in the donated collection are two books featuring works by Ansel Adams, Michael and Anne in the Yosemite Valley (1941) and The Four Seasons in Yosemite National Park: A Photographic Story of Yosemite’s Spectacular Scenery (1940) — both of which appeared in VMFA’s traveling exhibition Ansel Adams: Compositions in Nature. Additionally, other books from the collection were used to inform the development of the museum’s exhibition Man Ray: The Paris Years and still others will be featured in the upcoming exhibition American, Born Hungary planned to open at VMFA in 2024.

VMFA’s Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library and Special Collections is the most comprehensive art museum research library in the southeastern United States. With more than 150,000 volumes and 200 periodical titles, it provides important resources for the study of art. The library’s archives and rare book holdings include primary source material related to the history and activities of VMFA, the museum’s art collection, the history of art and artists in Virginia.

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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