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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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Downtown

No more Confederate flags at Hollywood Cemetery

Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, a longtime shrine of the South and home to thousands of Confederate graves, has quietly banned the flying of Confederate flags.

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Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, a longtime shrine of the South and home to thousands of Confederate graves, has quietly banned the flying of Confederate flags.

Visitors first noticed the absence of the flags in summer 2020, when anti-racism protests rocking Richmond and much of the U.S. often targeted rebel symbols. Two people familiar with the cemetery said then they understood that Hollywood had taken down the flags, widely seen as symbols of racism, temporarily to remove potential vandalism targets.

Two years later, Confederate flags that were once common at the historic private cemetery are still gone.

It turns out the cemetery’s board of directors adopted a formal flag ban in 2020 – with no public announcement.

“Hollywood does not have an established practice of publishing policies and broadly disseminating them when they are adopted by the board,” said Hollywood spokesman Matt Jenkins, a Richmond lawyer and member of the cemetery’s board. “We are not a public body.”

Jenkins provided the Virginia Mercury a copy of the flag policy, dated July 2, 2020.

It says in part that “against the current backdrop of intentional acts of vandalism and destruction of property, Hollywood’s board has removed from public view all flags of the Confederacy in the interest of protecting and preserving the entirety of the cemetery’s grounds.”

Jenkins declined to say if the ban is permanent. “It (the policy) says what it says. I’m not going to use the word ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent.’ “

Confederate statues on and near Richmond’s Monument Avenue began coming down in 2020, some toppled by protestors and others removed by the city.

The 135-acre Hollywood Cemetery, named for its abundant hollies, lies along the James River next to the Oregon Hill community. Founded in 1847, it is owned by the Hollywood Cemetery Co., a nonprofit corporation. Still a functioning cemetery, Hollywood operates much like a park, welcoming visitors who stroll up and down its hills to view solemn and artistic grave markers under gorgeous oaks, tulip poplars and cypresses, some of which predate the Civil War.

Hollywood is the resting place for two U.S. presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler; Confederate President Jefferson Davis; several Virginia governors; and other dignitaries.

Hollywood bills itself as “one of the most historic and beautiful cemeteries in the United States.”

Among Hollywood’s most striking features are its Confederate graves and memorials, which include a 90-foot-tall granite pyramid.

Virginia Commonwealth University historian Ryan K. Smith said Hollywood used to seek an elite, White clientele. The Confederate flag ban, he said, could help Hollywood move past those racist roots and appeal to a more diverse public.

“They have been worried, and I think rightfully so, about vandalism,” Smith said. “I think Hollywood is also trying to position itself for newer audiences going forward than it cultivated in the past.”

Smith’s 2020 book “Death & Rebirth in a Southern City” examined the religious, racial and Confederate history of Richmond’s cemeteries.

“I think (the ban) is a big deal because it shows just how far public perception against the Confederate flag has turned,” Smith said.

There are several flags of the Confederacy, but the most-recognized and most controversial by far is the Confederate battle flag. It features a blue, star-studded, diagonal cross on a field of red. Though some have defended the flag symbolic of southern heritage, it has long been waved by segregationists and White supremacists.

Word of the ban angered Andrew Bennett Morehead of Hanover County, who had put up and maintained Confederate flags at Hollywood in recent years.

“This is absolutely news to me,” said Morehead, the Richmond area brigade commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a heritage group with about 3,500 members in Virginia.

“If Hollywood has an official stance – no Confederate flags of any type will be flown – I haven’t seen it on anything that I’ve gotten,” Morehead added. He said he thought the 2020 ban was temporary.

“Of all places, Hollywood Cemetery, which is a very historic … landmark, much like Monument Avenue was, is succumbing to the woke society,” Morehead said.

Morehead, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, had been putting up at Hollywood several replicas of the Confederacy’s third, and final, national flag. That lesser-known flag is red and white with a square battle-flag image in its upper left corner.

Figuring enough time had passed since the 2020 protests, Morehead in early May put up a large third-national flag on a pole by the grave of Davis, the Confederate President. A Confederate flag had flown on that pole for years before being taken down amid the protests. Morehead later found that the newly raised flag had been removed. He criticized the cemetery for failing to celebrate  “the folks who are interred there that put them on the map.”

Tamara Jenkins, a spokeswoman for Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, indicated Confederate flags are still allowed in city cemeteries. “There is no rule in place to regulate flags on individual graves,” she said by email.

‘A symbolic cacophony’: As monuments come down, the unraveling of the rebel flag continues

The ‘inner sanctum’

Historian Mary H. Mitchell captured Hollywood’s attraction to aficionados of the Confederacy in her 1985 book, “Hollywood Cemetery: The History of a Southern Shrine.”

“Most of the war’s major battles were fought on Virginia soil, and (Richmond) assumed responsibility for an enormous number of the dead and wounded,” Mitchell wrote.

“Richmond became a symbol of what these men had fought for — a shrine to the Old South and the Lost Cause…If Richmond was the temple of the Lost Cause, Hollywood was its inner sanctum.”

The Lost Cause was a distorted version of history, pushed by the Civil War’s losers, that falsely insisted the war wasn’t about slavery, that enslaved people had been happy and that Confederates were saintly, among other claims.

Hollywood claims to be the home of 18,000 Confederate graves, but modern researchers say the number is probably several thousand smaller. Still, Hollywood and the city’s Oakwood Cemetery in the East End appear to be the top two cemeteries in the U.S. in their numbers of Confederate dead.

It seems clear that Hollywood, like Richmond and much of the South, is struggling to reconcile its past and present. Hollywood’s struggle was evident as far back as 1999, when the foreword to a new edition of Mitchell’s book was written by the late Hunter Holmes McGuire Jr., the great grandson of a prominent Confederate surgeon and a surgeon in his own right.

Hollywood, McGuire wrote, has a “unique drawing power for the growing number of people fascinated by the American Civil War. Some unreconstructed rebels come to mourn a ‘lost cause,’ but more and more people realize that what both sides gained in their crucible of sacrifice was a new and better nation.”

Similarly, Hollywood says on its website today that Confederates “went into battle for what seemed then a noble cause of protecting their homes from northern aggression… Now we know that the cause was not a lost one. These men’s lives, along with those of their northern counterparts, were given to forge a single and better nation.”

The cemetery’s flag policy doesn’t mention perceptions of the flag, but Hollywood’s Jenkins acknowledged the flags are offensive to many people. “Don’t infer from the policy statement that we are insensitive to many people’s feelings about the flag.”

Hollywood’s statement says, “Whether and when it may be appropriate for these flags to be flown again in commemoration of the dead will be determined at a later date.” Asked if Hollywood had set a date to revisit the policy, Jenkins said, “No comment.”

Vandalism

The flags’ potential to draw vandals is a major concern at Hollywood.

In summer 2020, vandals cut a rope and stole a large replica of the third national flag of the Confederacy. Last year vandals caused $50,000 to $100,000 in damage when they knocked over several headstones and spray painted one, though that wasn’t in the Confederate part of the cemetery.

Jenkins said he knew of no arrests in the cases.

A recent visit to Hollywood found visitors with mixed feelings about the flag ban.

“Don’t destroy one man’s heritage for another’s,” said a Civil War buff who declined to give his name.

The man later walked to his vehicle, pulled out a miniature version of the rebels’ third national flag and placed it beside a small Confederate battle flag next to the pyramid.

Nelson Bryant, a Maine native living in Henrico County, said he had no problem with the Confederate flags being removed. Of course, Bryant said with a smile, “Down here I’m a damn Yankee.”

Bryant’s wife Anna, raised in Henrico, said, “I’d like to see it come back, the battle flag, but not necessarily at this time.” Perhaps another generation could better deal with it, she said.

“There’s an awful lot tied to the flag,” she said. “But time heals that.”

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