• Nia Alexander

Art in Richmond!

What You’ll Find in This Post:

  • Some museums and galleries

  • A few outdoor art displays

  • A few mentions of regularly occurring art events

  • Random places to find art: Architecture, libraries, boutiques

Taking a selfie with a turtle mural painted on a sewer

As an artist, I can’t write about a destination I’ve been to without writing about the art scene! And as an artist who studied in Richmond, I genuinely look forward to highlighting some of the artsy things around town. This post will be relatively short, sweet, and to the point because as we speak, I am working on, you guessed it, a huge art project! It’s not just any art project, though—oh no—I am in the midst of working through my thesis for the Master of Fine Arts in Design degree I am currently earning. So, let’s jump right into it!

Outside the VMFA

Some of the collection at the VMFA

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – This is an incredible museum with a vast permanent collection and very good temporary shows. I have been going to this museum since I was a teenager and every time I think coming here will be boring in its repetitiveness, it is so far from it. There is always something exciting and/or unexpected to be found at the museum.

In front of the VCUarts Fine Arts Building

Some photos from the VCU Fine Arts Building

Small galleries – 1708 Gallery, Elegba Folklore Society, The Anderson Gallery, Quirk Gallery, the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, and a few gallery spaces inside VCUarts buildings are ones that come to mind. Elegba Folklore Society in particular offers a variety of arts events, both visual and performative, and they are devoted to Black arts and culture.

Institute for Contemporary Art – I feel obliged to mention it because its creation was a big deal for Richmond and VCU. However, I haven’t been to it yet so all I can offer you is a vague description of what it looks like and memories of all the times its construction woke me up when I lived across the street.

Some of the illustrations on display the last time I was at Cabell Library

Close ups of some of the illustrations

Cabell Library art collection – When I was enrolled at VCU, viewing the library’s collection was by appointment only; I am not sure if this process works the same for the public. However, know that the library has a fantastic collection of illustrations and art books in its archive.

First Fridays – I mentioned this in my post about outdoor activities in Richmond. First Fridays is an event where essentially every gallery around Broad Street opens in the evenings on the first Friday of every month. I found the experience overwhelming, to be honest, but I still appreciated much of the art I saw.

Matt Lively mural at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Murals all around Richmond

Murals – The prevalence of murals in Richmond has really boomed over the last decade. There is even some kind of Richmond mural website that lists many of the murals’ locations, but I’ll tell you right now, that website only scratches the surface.

Art events – Depending on what time of year, Richmond hosts art events like Art in the Park and InLight. InLight is very exciting; it is a multi-day evening event where multiple galleries and individual artists showcase art that is in some way light based.

Confederate statues

Confederate statues – I can’t talk about Richmond without acknowledging its long list of Confederate statues. Monument Avenue had the most, but some also popped up in parks around town and near the capitol building. Richmond itself was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, by the way, so it has always had a special relationship with, well, the Confederacy. However, as of summer 2020 many of Richmond’s statues of our war “heroes”—the men who fought so valiantly to preserve slavery and had their likenesses erected during peaks of white supremacy movements in the U.S.—have been taken down. Sure, we still have schools, bridges, hospitals, streets, mascots, parks, and counties named after them and their families, but most of the statues are gone. Perhaps the most well-known statue that remains, though, is that of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general whose statue was the first and largest to be erected on Monument Avenue. The area where the statue sits has been unofficially renamed after Marcus-David Peters, an unarmed Black man and VCU alumnus who was fatally shot by police while experiencing a mental health crisis. If you ask me, the site looks a whole lot better now than it has in its 130-year long history.

Photo from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Photo from VCU News

A variety of statues and sculptures around Richmond

Other statues – Since our Confederate statues will be unviewable for the foreseeable future, I thought I would list a few other options for you to check out if you really wanted to see some bronze beauties. Richmond has statues of Bill Bojangles Robinson, Maggie Lena Walker, and Arthur Ashe, as well as the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, the Virignia Women's Monument, Rumors of War (by Kehinde Wiley), Winds Up by Lloyd Lillie, and the Virginia Washington Monument (which features George Washington flanked by some other historically relevant 18th century white Virginian men). There is also the Virginia War Memorial, dedicated to Virginians who were killed in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm.

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and the Capitol Building

Architecture – Richmond has a considerable amount of 19th century architecture, as well as the Old Stone House, which was built either in the late 17th century or the mid-18th. My favorite buildings in Richmond are actually residential buildings that were built in, I dunno, sometime between 1920 and 1950. Many of these houses have been converted into businesses, but you can always tell which ones they are based on their front facing shingles, which include designs of flowers or stars. They are all sitting around the Carytown, Jackson Ward, and Church Hill.

A paper store in Carytown and a random corner store where I found some local prints

Small arts stores – Many small stores in Richmond carry work by local artists, especially in the downtown area. There are also many places to buy your own arts supplies, often a variety of very unique papers, paints, pens, and so on. This kind of atmosphere, both for supporting local artists and finding niche art supplies is a feature of Richmond that I have yet to see in any of the other countries I’ve been to.

Conclusion

Standing where I used to paint in one of the group studios at the VCU Fine Arts Buildings

When I think of art in Richmond, in all the many forms it takes, I think of the words quiet and powerful. It doesn’t catch as many art headlines like New York or DC or Paris, but it is undeniably a shining star of creativity, nonetheless. Sometimes I have the urge to describe Richmond as up & coming when defining its art scene, but the reality is that Richmond here. It is here in the present, colorful, dynamic, and constantly evolving.

About the Creator

Nia Alexander Campbell is an artist and writer from Richmond, Virginia. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in...

 

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© 2020 by Black Girls Abroad

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