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Community Build Exhibition Opening at VisArts on Friday

Community Build creates space for dialogue, conversation, dance, and echoes between three multidisciplinary artists whose practices include and call in many.

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The Visual Arts Center of Richmond presents, Community Build, an exhibition of work by and with Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Lil Lamberta, Valeska Populoh and members of their respective communities. The exhibit will open at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 9 and a performance by Open Space Education students, in collaboration with Lil Lamberta & All the Saints Theater will begin at 6:30 p.m. Community Build will be on view in the True F. Luck Gallery at VisArts until October 31, 2022.

Community Build creates space for dialogue, conversation, dance, and echoes between three multidisciplinary artists whose practices include and call in many. For this exhibition, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Lil Lamberta and Valeska Populoh serve as stewards and facilitators of a much bigger art and social justice ecosystem. Community Build is rooted in storytelling and collaborative work. Through this, it explores the interdependence of how the artists make work in relation to each other, the implications of this environment and the future that we all as a community are building every day.

Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo (they/them) is an artist, activist, educator, storyteller & curator who lives/works between Ohlone Land [Oakland, CA] and Powhatan Land [Richmond, VA]. Their work centers B.I.Q.T.P.O.C. stories by re-creating and re-telling personal tales and those of the people that surround them through process-based mediums that reflect the multi-layered complexities of the voices echoed in the work.

“Community Build is an invitation into a long legacy of work that depends and becomes of itself because of others, Community Build is an evolving space, a show, a workshop, a performance, a studio, a manifesto, a community, a chosen family, Community Build is stewarded by three artists with much-chosen history and shared underground root structure. Through this month together, we will become a new version of what a collective becoming can look like,” says Lukaza, “I hope that folks are able to both see an entry point into this network/community/demands and also question how to be a part of creating, shaping and making this ongoing work.”

Lil Lamberta (they/them) is a Powhatan and Pamunkey Land [Richmond]-born and based sculptor, performer, dancer, and puppeteer who marries their classical training as a performer with radical formats of Street theater and ancient forms of storytelling such as puppetry. Lil uses papier-mache and other affordable materials to denounce war, inequality, and the capitalist exploitation of workers, migrants, and the environment. in 2006, Lil founded the All the Saints Theater Company which produces Richmond Annual Halloween Parade. The parade features papier-mache masks and larger-than-life puppets as a form of activism and community building. Under Lil’s direction, a team of artists, activists, and community volunteers, build the puppets, organize the volunteers and execute Richmond’s favorite permit-free street tradition for 12 consecutive years.

“We’re trying to tell a specific story through our art, but I can say that we are part of a contemporary web that has ancient origins in storytelling. What threads us to the future from our ancestors is this moment in time, staying true to these ancient forms of theater which are ritual and ceremony,” says Lamberta when asked about their contribution to the community-centered collaborative exhibition at VisArts. “We are preserving something – and for me, the magic is that I will always be able to do this work, because I choose trash, I choose streets, I choose friends. I can’t move puppets without comradery. I can’t have a parade without strangers. collaborative art and theater live beyond the artist and are part of a larger human experience. The puppets in relationship to the scale of landscape or urban story and how those things advocate for life beyond capitalism, eco-terrorism, and racism, that’s what interests me.”

Valeska Populoh works as an artist, educator and cultural organizer and joins the trio from her adopted hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, unceded territory of the Piscataway Conoy and other Chesapeake First Families. Embracing a wide array of tactics, from puppetry to participatory performance, Valeska’s work is motivated by an interest in healing and repair, in our relationships to each other and to the natural world. “Relationships with other artists and community partners greatly inform my work. Our dominant culture has brought us to a precipice. We can hear the voices of the Earth and of communities who have been historically marginalized calling loudly for us to right our relationships – to the sacred web of life and to each other. How do we participate and support the collective transformation that we need for our survival? One way is to craft compelling objects, stories and experiences for and with others – to enchant and educate each other, to help us better heed urgent calls for change, to amplify and honor the voices of those most impacted by climate chaos and inequality, and to strengthen us in undertaking the challenging work of collective transformation.”

“The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with this group of artists and their networks of collaborators,” says VisArts’ Executive Director, Stefanie Fedor. “Part of what makes VisArts so special is that our work relies on collaboration amongst a large community of artists, students, and arts appreciators. This exhibition highlights the way three artists deeply committed to social justice are working in communities to document and tell collective stories, create moments of reflection and celebration, and call out the ways we are all connected.”

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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.

Business

Greater Richmond Convention Center marks 20 years serving region

Since 2003, the complex has hosted a total of 7,034 conventions, consumer shows, sports tournaments, and other events, bringing millions of people and dollars to the region.

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Virginia’s largest meeting and exhibition venue celebrates two decades of welcoming events and visitors to the Richmond Region this year. The Greater Richmond Convention Center officially opened on February 28, 2003, as cheerleaders from across the country flipped in the American National Cheer and Dance Championships in the building’s exhibit hall.

Since then, the GRCC has hosted a total of 7,034 conventions, consumer shows, sports tournaments and other events bringing millions of people and dollars to the region.

The GRCC replaced the 62,000-square-foot Richmond Center, which opened in 1986. Stretching across a six-block area, the 700,000 square-foot GRCC incorporates some of the steel and pillars from the original facility.

Construction for the project began in 1999 and was supported by a $10 million investment from former Governor George Allen and the regionwide transient lodging tax.

“It is the best example of regional cooperation in the history of this whole area,” said late Lt. Gov. John H. Hager during a 2002 press conference.

The Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority – a political subdivision of Virginia with representation from the city of Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties – oversaw the financing, development and construction of the GRCC. The Authority’s 25th anniversary is this year.

We’re immensely proud of the legacy and the positive impact the Greater Richmond Convention Center has had on tourism,” said Lincoln Saunders, City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer and Chair of the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority. “Millions of people are introduced to the Richmond Region through events and competitions that are hosted at the facility every year. These visitors support our economy by shopping at our small businesses, eating at restaurants and visiting attractions.”

To examine the viability of the GRCC, regional leaders commissioned a feasibility study by C.H. Johnson Consulting in 1999. The researchers projected hotel tax collections to reach $30 million by fiscal year 2020. Hotel tax collection revenues reached $30 million by fiscal year 2019.

Throughout the GRCC expansion phases, groups were welcomed to the region to use completed portions of the building. About 1,200 women from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority were the first to use the facility’s new ballroom during a three-day conference in May 2001.

When the GRCC was officially completed in 2003, Richmond Region Tourism had booked 18 conventions through 2008.

Interest and bookings have experienced a dramatic uptick over the years. During its last fiscal year, the GRCC hosted over 180 events.

From USA Fencing tournaments and ice dancing competitions to offshore wind conferences and comic conventions, the GRCC has hosted various large-scale events since it opened.

“The convention center is a shining example of regional collaboration,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “The success of the convention center demonstrates how investing in tourism results in positive economic development for our entire region. Richmond Region Tourism and its partners are committed to working alongside our community to continue tourism’s positive momentum.”

The GRCC went through extensive upgrades to modernize the facility in 2020.

GRCC’s technological and cosmetic improvements include new LED lighting and RGB color lighting, monitors, digital signage, and a new digital sound system.  Its interior spaces were updated with new tile, accents, paint scheme, and pub-style tables and seating. The facility also features a new executive lounge and a renovated food court and service desk.

Today the GRCC features 178,159 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, a 30,550 square foot grand ballroom, and 50,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting room space.

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Downtown

Animal welfare advocates disappointed bill to declaw cats failed

House Bill 1382 would have made the declawing of cats a $500 civil penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second violation and $2,500 for the third or any subsequent violation. The bill failed to advance when it was tabled by a 6-4 vote in a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee.

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By Cassandra Loper

A proposal to outlaw the declawing of cats, a procedure that animal rights advocates call cruel and unnecessary, failed to advance from a House subcommittee last month.

House Bill 1382 would have made cat declawing a $500 civil penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second violation and $2,500 for the third or any subsequent violation. The bill was tabled by a 6-4 vote in a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee.

The bill is important because cats’ claws are natural and used for stretching, marking territory, balance and more, according to Molly Armus, Virginia state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Declawing cats is actually an “incredibly painful procedure,” according to Armus.

“I think it’s up to us, as people who are taking these cats into our homes, to learn more humane and less invasive ways to manage scratching,” Armus said.

An onychectomy, or declawing, is a surgery that includes 10 separate amputations, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world, according to its website.

Declawing is typically performed for convenience, according to the Animal League Defense Fund. Many people declaw their cats to prevent scratching, its website states.

“Localities around the nation, a couple of states, including our neighbor Maryland, have passed a declawing ban,” said bill sponsor Del. Gwendolyn Gooditis, D-Clarke, in the committee meeting.

New York and Maryland are the only U.S. states that have outlawed declawing. Multiple U.S. cities have passed declawing laws, with the most located in California, according to PETA.

“Declawing cats means, look at your hands, it would be the equivalent of your fingers and your toes being chopped off at the first knuckle,” Gooditis said.

The procedure can cause impaired balance, as much as a person would after losing his or her toes, according to PETA. Declawed cats may have to relearn how to walk.

“It’s a removal of that last bone,” Gooditis said.

Susan Seward, a lobbyist for the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, or VVMA, testified against the bill in the committee meeting. The VVMA strongly opposed the bill, Seward said.

“I think one of the unintended consequences would be setting up a really unpleasant and adversarial relationship between animal control and veterinarians, and that is certainly not a relationship we want to diminish,” Seward said to the committee panel.

Alice Burton, program director for nonprofit animal welfare organization Alley Cat Allies, said the organization was disappointed the bill failed.

Alley Cat Allies mission is to protect and improve the lives of cats. according to its website. The organization operates a trap-neuter-return program to help stabilize the cat population. A cat is transported to a veterinarian, spayed and returned to its original location.

It’s an act of cruelty to declaw cats, according to Burton, who was an animal control officer for 15 years.

“They no longer have their nails as a defense, so their first instinct is to bite,” Burton said. “So all of a sudden they’ve got these bites on their record, which obviously does not bode well for them.”

Declawed cats also struggle to use the litter box because the litter hurts their paws, she said. Many cats who have been declawed will stop using the litter box and soil where they aren’t supposed to, Burton said.

“I would say most of the time these negative effects lead to these cats being surrendered to the shelters or rescue groups,” Burton said. “They would, in most cases, be deemed unadoptable and they would be euthanized.”

There are many other humane options out there, according to Burton.

Humane alternatives to declawing include trimming a cat’s claws regularly, using deterrents such as double-sided tape on furniture, rubber caps for the nails and providing a variety of scratching options, according to Alley Cat Allies.

“We’re not giving up,” Burton said. “We’re going to come back and keep fighting.”

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Community

Library of Virginia celebrates Black History Month with Panel Discussion on Black Political Activism After Claiming Freedom

Editors of the Library’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography joined this project in 2011 in collaboration with the commonwealth’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission to research and write about the 92 African American men who served in the General Assembly from 1869 to 1890.

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In honor of Black History Month and as part of its 200th anniversary activities, the Library of Virginia will present a panel discussion on Thursday, Feb. 23 to celebrate the completion of a signature project that documents the lives of Virginia’s first Black legislators. Titled “The First Civil Rights: Black Political Activism After Claiming Freedom,” the free panel discussion, offered in partnership with Virginia Humanities, will be held 6-7:30 p.m. in the Library’s Lecture Hall. Advance registration is required at https://lva-virginia.libcal.com/event/10200777.

Editors of the Library’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography joined this project in 2011 in collaboration with the commonwealth’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission to research and write about the 92 African American men who served in the General Assembly from 1869 to 1890. Their stories are now available online as part of Virginia’s collective digital story thanks to a collaboration with Encyclopedia Virginia, a rich online resource sponsored by Virginia Humanities.

Black Members of the Virginia General Assembly, 1887-1888.
Front row, left to right: Alfred W. Harris (Dinwiddie), William W. Evans (Petersburg), Caesar Perkins(Buckingham).
Back row, left to right: John H. Robinson (Elizabeth City), Goodman Brown (Surry), Nathaniel M. Griggs (Prince Edward), William H. Ash (Nottoway), Briton Baskerville Jr. (Mecklenburg).

“We’re proud to celebrate such a meaningful project to document early African American representation in our commonwealth’s legislature,” said Librarian of Virginia Sandra G. Treadway. “We encourage the public to join us at what will be a very insightful discussion examining the contributions of early Black legislators and their enduring legacy today.”

Panelists for the program, moderated by Virginia Humanities executive director Matthew Gibson, will include the Honorable Viola Baskerville, one of the founders of the project; Lauranett Lee, public historian and University of Richmond adjunct assistant professor; Ajena Rogers, supervisory park ranger at the National Park Service’s Maggie L. Walker Historic Site and a descendant of Black legislator James A. Fields; and historian and author Brent Tarter, a retired editor with the Library of Virginia.

For more information on the panel discussion, contact Elizabeth Klaczynski at 804.692.3536 or [email protected]. Learn more about the Library’s anniversary events at www.lva.virginia.gov/200.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

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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