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RVA Magazine
RVA Magazine

Richmond, VA

(804) 349-5890

Website

Richmond Free Press
Richmond Free Press

422 E Franklin St
Richmond, VA 23219   Directions

(804) 644-0496

Website

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Richmond Times-Dispatch

300 E Franklin St
Richmond, VA 23219   Directions

(804) 649-6000

Website

Style Weekly
Style Weekly

24 E 3rd St
Richmond, VA 23224   Directions

(804) 358-0825

Website

Week of August 5
08/05/2020 3:00am

ARIES March 21-April 19 In her book Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones, Stephanie Rose Bird reports that among early African Americans, there were specialists who spoke the language of trees. These patient magicians developed intimate relationships with individual trees, learning their moods and rhythms, and even exchanging non-verbal information with them. Trees imparted wisdom about herbal cures, weather patterns, and ecologically sound strategies. Until recently, many scientists might have dismissed this lore as delusion. But in his 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees, forester Peter Wohlleben offers evidence that trees have social lives and do indeed have the power to converse. Ive always said that you Aries folks have great potential to conduct meaningful dialogs with animals and trees. And now happens to be a perfect time for you to seek such invigorating pleasures.TAURUS April 20-May 20Author Joanne Harris writes, The right circumstances sometimes happen of their own accord, slyly, without fanfare, without warning. The magic of everyday things. I think thats an apt oracle for you to embrace during the coming weeks. In my opinion, life will be conspiring to make you feel at home in the world. You will have an excellent opportunity to get your personal rhythm into close alignment with the rhythm of creation. And so you may achieve a version of what mythologist Joseph Campbell called the goal of life: to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.GEMINI May 21-June 20Author Gloria Anzalda writes, I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining. She adds that in this process, she has become a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings. I would love for you to engage in similar work right now, Gemini. Life will be on your sidebringing you lucky breaks and stellar insightsif you undertake the heroic work of reformulating the meanings of light and darkand then reshaping the way you embody those primal forces.CANCER June 21-July 22 Pleasure is one of the most important things in life, as important as food or drink, wrote Cancerian author Irving Stone. I would love for you to heed that counsel, my fellow Crabs. What he says is always true, but it will be extraordinarily meaningful for you to take to heart during the coming weeks. Heres how you could begin: Make a list of seven experiences that bring you joy, bliss, delight, fun, amusement, and gratification. Then make a voweven write an oath on a piece of paperto increase the frequency and intensity of those experiences.LEO July 23-Aug. 22At times in our lives, its impractical to be innocent and curious and blank and receptive. So many tasks require us to be knowledgeable and self-assured and forceful and in control. But according to my astrological analysis, the coming weeks will be a time when you will benefit from the former state of mind: cultivating what Zen Buddhists call beginners mind. The Chinese refer to it as chuxin, or the mind of a novice. The Koreans call it the eee mok oh approach, translated as What is this Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield defines it as the dont-know mind. During this upcoming phase, I invite you to enjoy the feeling of being at peace with all thats mysterious and beyond your understanding.VIRGO Aug. 23-Sept. 22Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. Author Anne Lamott wrote that, and now Im conveying it to youjust in time for the Unplug-Yourself Phase of your astrological cycle. Any glitches or snafus you may be dealing with right now arent as serious as you might imagine. The biggest problem seems to be the messy congestion that has accumulated over time in your links to sources that usually serve you pretty well. So if youll simply disconnect for a while, Im betting that clarity and grace will be restored when you reconnect.LIBRA Sept. 23-Oct. 22Have you been saving any of your tricks for later If so, later has arrived. Have you been postponing flourishes and climaxes until the time was right If so, the coming days will be as right a time as there can be. Have you been waiting and waiting for the perfect moment before making use of favors that life owes you and promises that were made to you If so, the perfect moment has arrived. Have you been wondering when you would get a ripe opportunity to express and highlight the most interesting truths about yourself If so, that opportunity is available.SCORPIO Oct. 23-Nov. 21I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes, writes Scorpio author Maxine Hong Kingston. That would be an excellent task for you to work on in the coming weeks. Here are your formulas for success: 1. The more you expand your imagination, the better youll understand the big picture of your present situationand the more progress you will make toward creating the most interesting possible future. 2. The more comfortable you are about dwelling in the midst of paradoxes, the more likely it is that you will generate vigorous decisions that serve both your own needs and the needs of your allies.SAGITTARIUS Nov. 22-Dec. 21Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons, says actor and director Denzel Washington. When you shine bright, some wont enjoy the shadow you cast, says rapper and activist Talib Kweli. You may have to deal with reactions like those in the coming weeks, Sagittarius. If you do, I suggest that you dont take it personally. Your job is to be your radiant, generous selfand not worry about whether anyone has the personal power necessary to handle your radiant, generous self. The good news is that I suspect you will stimulate plenty of positive responses that will more than counterbalance the challenging ones.CAPRICORN Dec. 22-Jan. 19Capricorn occultist Peter J. Carroll tells us, Some have sought to avoid suffering by avoiding desire. Thus they have only small desires and small sufferings. In all of the zodiac, you Capricorns are among the least likely to be like that. One of your potential strengths is the inclination to cultivate robust desires that are rooted in a quest for rich experience. Yes, that sometimes means you must deal with more strenuous ordeals than other people. But I think its a wise trade-off. In any case, my dear, youre now in a phase of your cycle when you should take inventory of your yearnings. If you find there are some that are too timid or meager, I invite you to either drop them or pump them up.AQUARIUS Jan. 20-Feb. 18The people who live in the town of Bazoule, Burkina Faso regard the local crocodiles as sacred. They live and work amidst the 100 creatures, co-existing peacefully. Kids play within a few feet of them, never worrying about safety. Id love to see you come to similar arrangements with untamed influences and strong characters in your own life, Aquarius. You dont necessarily have to treat them as sacred, but I do encourage you to increase your empathy and respect for them.PISCES Feb. 19-March 20Your body naturally produces at least one quart of mucus every day. You might not be aware of it, because much of it glides down your throat. Although you may regard this snot as gross, its quite healthy. It contains antibodies and enzymes that kill harmful bacteria and viruses. I propose we regard mucus as your prime metaphor in the coming weeks. Be on the alert for influences and ideas that might empower you even if theyre less than beautiful and pleasing. Make connections with helpful influences even if theyre not sublimely attractive.

2020 Top 40 Under 40 Nominations are Open
08/04/2020 12:00am

Welcome to the Nominations for the Style Weekly 2020 Top Forty Under 40 AwardsWere looking for Richmonds doers, changers, dynamic leaders who dont just talk the walk. Help us find the men and women younger than 40 who push our community to greater heights.Nominees will be evaluated for their vision and leadership, innovation and achievements, and strategies for success, but emphasis will be placed on their community service including the impact of their volunteer work, their commitment and the diversity of interests and involvement. All nominees must be under the age of 40 on Oct. 27, 2020.Due to the pandemic, we will not hold a public ceremony this year and we have a shorter window available for nominations. The deadline for nominations is 5 p.m., Sept. 21, 2020. Honorees will need to be available for photos during the months of September and October. Honorees will be featured in a special issue in late October and presented with an award certificate by mail. Judging criteria: Judges are looking for persons under 40 who are making a positive impact in their respective field. Particularly candidates who are innovative leaders, mentors and role models who engage in a diversity of community support in the Richmond region.How to enterTo enter the competition, you must email the form with TOP 40 NOMINATION in the subject to brent.baldwinstyleweekly.com or mail to: Style Weekly Top 40 24 E. Third St. Richmond, Va. 23224If you have problems submitting this form, please contact us at brent.baldwinstyleweekly.com.Click here to download the 2020 Top 40 Under 40 nomination form

Byrd Watching
08/04/2020 12:00am

The new executive director of the Byrd Theatre, Stacy Shaw, talks about the future of Richmonds movie palace. While the pandemic continues to wreak havoc with our lives, Richmonds crown jewel movie palace, the Byrd Theatre, is trying to keep focus on its future. As of July 1, that effort includes a new executive director with three decades of experience as an arts administrator, most recently as the director of institutional advancement spending at the National Theatre in Washington. Stacy Shaw also has worked in the past at the Wells Theatre in Norfolk, so shes well versed with many of the issues that can arise in historic theaters. Like all movie theaters, the Byrd has been hit hard by the lack of audiences, which meant it had to lay off most of its staff except for projectionist Damion Champe and Shaw. While the Byrd remains closed, there are a number of current ways to support the theater, from virtual screenings at home to renting out the marquee for celebratory messages.In addition, theres a movie lovers club for $10 a month that provides a reusable tumbler for free fountain drinks when the Byrd reopens. And soon a movie party rental program will allow people to bring friends and family to the Byrd as a quarantine pod and enjoy a private screening safely. Hmmm maybe I can finally hold that screening of Rubin and Ed or Blue Sunshine. Recently Style spoke with Shaw, who lives with her wife in Petersburg, about her vision for the future and what lies ahead for Carytowns greatest attraction. Style Weekly: Tell us a little about yourself. Stacy Shaw: Im originally from South Carolina, although Ive worked in major cities around the country: Atlanta, Denver, D.C., Norfolk. My masters degree is in theater management from Virginia Tech, from a long time ago laughs. This is what Ive always wanted to do. I particularly enjoy making the experience great for patrons and the artists involved. Im happiest coordinating things Im not someone who craves the spotlight. I also did teach for a while during that time, running an undergrad program in arts administration at the College of Charleston, then left and took a position at the University of Alabama and ran their MFA program in arts administration. My home base has been in Petersburg since 2013 my wife teaches at Virginia State University. It reminds me of how Charleston used to be when I first went there as a child in the pre-tourism boom days. Everybody knows everybody What kind of movies do you like, personallyOh, a lot The only category I personally am uncomfortable with is horror movies. But I know a lot of people love them, so that wont affect programming. But I tend more toward serious movies, I suppose. I love documentaries and a good story. Ive seen everything at the Byrd from blockbusters to art films and lost cult classics, live concerts to comedian Margaret Cho or director John Waters, Pere Ubu performing a live sci-fi soundtrack X:The Man with the X-Ray Eyes to important community events such as the devastating Harvey Family memorial, which seemed to transform the entire building into one sobbing heart. What is your vision for the future in terms of eventsIts a local business, a nonprofit. One of the missions is to keep it accessible, in terms of ticket prices. Im personally new to the Byrd, but the family I married into has been coming here for several generations. Thats a lot of responsibility to be the best steward I can be. My vision is really to continue on the track that its been. We are fortunate that we can provide something for everybody, while offering a diverse mix of opportunities, as you said. The board has been engaged in strategic planning, which has been helpful in terms of guiding the organization forward. I think there are lots of ideas, but the community can count on the Byrd still being the Byrd. Right now the Byrd is closed because costs of operating under COVID would be too high, correctYeah, we did survey of our patrons and what we heard back is what youd expect from most places. About 30 said, we love you guys, but were not coming back until theres a vaccine. The other 70 said we love the Byrd, we miss coming there, but are not quite ready to return. Without the ability to count on people, plus the increased cost of the PPE, the numbers dont really work. But we are taking advantage of the time to do as much as we can. A lot of cleaning has been done, replacing light bulbs. The Wurlitzer piano, which is quite rare, has not worked well for 50 years. Over last 13 months, it was sent off piece by piece to Tennessee and rebuilt, so it was re-installed up in that alcove, and it now works perfectly. Were excited about that. Its operated by the other Wurlitzer organ. We are planning to do a Facebook live mini-concert soon. Can you talk about the layoffs of most of the staffI had to do that right after starting, unfortunately. That was not pleasant. Unfortunately, like a lot of places, especially theaters, we werent able to reopen and there was no work for them to do. It was not something we wanted to do. Weve applied for everything the federal government has offered: We did get a PPE loan, we used almost all of that to pay staff for 10 weeks, not just the eight weeks. Then we just couldnt continue. There had been rumors online that some had been laid off because Black Lives Matter had been put on the marquee Those are falseNo one was let go, or even threatened, for doing that. Thanks for the opportunity to clear that up. Emotions have been heightened. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and people of color. Its sad we had to cancel all our Pride events for June. Social media can be great, but its also a source of great disinformation. The people who were let go, it was completely for financial reasons. Will any of those people be hired backI did ask anybody who was interested in coming back to let me know, when that day comes. I left that door open, and Ive heard from several people. Has there been any talk of first-run features at the ByrdAll we have at the moment are virtual screenings. I know we did really well with the first run of Uncut Gems. There remains a lot of conversation about whether something like that will happen again. I cant say its a top priority at the moment, I want to get us back open and then well focus on more forward. Amongst everybody on the board, we talk about it, but theres no real consensus about it, its an ongoing question. What are the challenges in terms of raising fundsMy approach to fundraising is really toward people who feel the same way you do about the Byrd personal memories and want to support it. People were asked the top four things theyd miss if they left Richmond, the Byrd made the list. But of course, these are challenging times during a pandemic. We understand there are needs across the community to be addressed. People need to be healthy and OK. Raising money in the arts, you know that and understand it, but you sure do appreciate the people who find a way to support during those difficult times. Naming rights is a standard practice and something available quite often. Ill say having come from the National in Washington its the second oldest theater in the country, from 1835. but there are patrons that understand things like HVAC and life expectancies of systems the behind-the-scenes things. Those are my favorite donors. Its not exciting to talk about, but it needs to happen. Are there other similarities between that building and the ByrdOh gosh, yes. The architecture the Byrd is the most beautiful theater Ive worked for. But the maintenance of older facilities like this, it did prepare me being at the National and focusing on capital improvements. Thats mostly what I raised money for, while we were also able to raise our programming support. Im looking at everything that needs to be addressed. I know a whole lot more about capital improvements than I once did laughs. Do you know of any local festivals being dropped at the ByrdNo, were working right now to forge reopening when we can, when people are comfortable. We continue to work with all the festivals we worked with in the past. Were solving issues on our end. I was excited last week when we were able to do testing on the seats with a cleaner that kills COVID in a minute and doesnt damage fabric. Im learning a lot about these cleaning solutions laughs. This cleaner is certified now to kill COVID on contact its called Victoria Bay. We tested the old and new seats, and it worked without damage. But Heather Waters from the Richmond International Film Festival got me in touch with those folks. When we reopen, we will be ready with all the proper PPE in place. Do you have a top-three-type wish list, for things that need to happen at the ByrdIm so focused right now on the renovations that money has already been raised for, most of it patron safety. That will be happening next year, renovating the womens restroom and the concessions area, as well as some of the backstage areas. I think over time, patrons will see improvements and space clearing up in the lobby. But we certainly need to finish the seats thats way up there. Its a good start getting the center section done. Thats one of the main things. Theres additional systems work that needs to happen, to help keep the facility more stable in terms of humidity that was a big problem at the National as well. With more heat, which is the way of the future, things need more work. Also the marquee and some of the areas that look aged. This building needs some love and care.

Know Your Rights
08/04/2020 12:00am

Leaders of the Virginia ACLU discuss the recent protests and their goals. Since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has emerged as a powerful resource in asserting protesters legal rights to demonstrate and pursuing accountability for police violence and abuses of power. While not an activist organization, the ACLUs commitment to upholding civil liberties has been a critical arm of resistance against increasingly militarized state power. Currently, the ACLU is involved in active lawsuits against police departments that the organization believes have violated protesters civil liberties in at least 18 municipalities. Defendants in these lawsuits include the Richmond Police Department, the Virginia State Police and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Police Department, the former department in North Carolina of new Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith.Also, the ACLU is involved in advocating legislation. Gastaaga believes there is a legislative pathway to revoke qualified immunity in Virginia. In short, qualified immunity is a broad limitation on pursuing damages against individual police officers in civil court. Such a change could enable Virginians to pursue lawsuits against police officers in state courts. In the conversation below, Virginia Director Claire Gastaaga discusses revoking qualified immunity in Virginia and Style also hears from Ashna Khanna, the groups legislative director, and Phuong Tran, its digital communications manager.Style Weekly: How do you see your role in the ongoing protests for justice for Black LivesGastaaga: We see ourselves locally playing three roles. One is to defend the right of individuals to engage in free speech, protest and demonstrations, and also to challenge police misconduct. We are doing that both in advocacy and in the courts. The second is to lift up the demands of the communities we work with in collaboration and different coalitions to help create policy change at both the state and local level. And the third is to use our resources, which are relatively significant, including our communications team, to help elevate and amplify the voices of the people in the community were working with.How are those goals translating to legislative actionsKhanna: We know that there is a lot of talk about a legislative special session that will be addressing policing. We are very active in coalition with partners across the state to build momentum and hold legislators accountable to the values we want to see, so that the laws facilitate equitable policing. We are ensuring that we are enforcing police accountability, that we are eliminating the legal protections that let police officers escape consequences, especially when it comes to unethical misconduct.Part of that is looking at how can we end qualified immunity. When looking at the entire system, we have to look at how to reduce interactions, and more specifically, racist interactions with Black and brown community members between police and communities. Part of that has to do with the conversation about police in schools, part of that has to do with being involved in the war on drugs and making sure policy reform is being done with an equitable lens.Gastaaga: When Mike Herring did his study on the root causes of crime in Richmond a couple of years ago, we stood up and said, Hey, you know the No. 1 root cause of crime is what you choose to call a crime. So if youre going to call possession of drugs a crime, instead of decriminalizing like Portugal has done, then you create the root cause of crime. We are the root to the extent that we tolerate that. Tran: We have a huge platform that we can elevate people and uplift Black and brown queer leaders in the community. I think these people have been there, speaking out against police violence for years but they didnt get the response they needed. Now we have a momentum we have great energy and we also have a platform here with a lot of social media followers. We want to elevate the voices thatneed to be elevated. We want to connect people to local leaders that have been doing the job for a long time, like Chelsea Higgs Wise, like Naomi Isaac, like the people Style Weekly featured in your Race Capitol Roundtable.Another thing that weve been doing is to share resources like Know Your Rights to let people know what they can do in police interactions, telling people to use our mobile justice app to record police interactions and send it to us, and its been very helpful to view video. Even if we cant be on the ground every night, we are on social media every night. Claire and I work closely together to try and find a way to respond and to also keep our legal team in the loop with whats going on.I want to highlight the importance of social media because we are living in the time of a pandemic and not everyone is able to be out protesting. People rely on local journalists and everyone to take pictures of the police to stay vigilant of them and to show the video to the public and put the problem in the spotlight.Is qualified immunity something that can be revoked by the Virginia legislatureGastaaga: In the case of qualified immunity, thats a federal law concept that has to do with the interpretation of the federal Constitution. We have a Virginia Constitution, and we have Virginia state courts and we have the ability to say, look, if Congress cant get their act together and fix this nationally, we can give Virginians the ability to sue in state court over these kinds of things. And we can give Virginia the right cause of action to enforce the Virginia constitutional guarantees. So thats a good example of looking at how much could be resolved by policy change locally or just by changing practices locally and empowering local advocates.Does your office feel that a change is needed in the mayors office in NovemberGastaaga: We dont do that kind of electioneering work, but we are going to continue to look at the structural change thats needed and obviously we are going to help people understand who is leading in the right direction, and who is not leading in the right direction.Do you believe that the declarations of unlawful assemblies over these past two months are fundamentally illegalGastaaga: We believe that there are substantial parts of the regulations that theyre using as their predicate for the unconstitutional police actions theyre taking. We have said so since we did our big white paper on permitting protests and demonstration and filed our comments on the original emergency regulations that Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed.What kind of ripple effects are there if a civil court agrees that some of these enforcements are illegal, but the police continue to arrest protesters, as well as cause injuries through the deployment of chemical weapons, flash-bangs and rubber bulletsGastaaga: Well, again the problem is with the ways that qualified immunity is interpreted in the federal courts now. If a court hasnt said clearly, unequivocally, and exactly the right words that what you did was unconstitutional, then you cant be held liable until the second time you do it. You never have the opportunity to get a court to agree if youre suing for damages when what happened was unconstitutional because they always deal with qualified immunity first. So, you never get the court decision you need to go back if they do it again.What do you see as the stumbling blocks for the commonwealths attorney in Marcus-David Peters case, and how have you been involvedGastaaga: We were party to a conversation with the commonwealths attorney where she committed at least to review the case again, she refused to commit to anything beyond that in that conversation, but thats where that has to start. We obviously support the Marcus Alert idea and the concept that the person that shows up in that circumstance needs to be somebody who is not a police person and somebody that can actually interact with the person who is having a mental health crisis. I watched that videotape and my personal view was that an untrained person got out there and did some things that a properly trained person would never have done. That means he should have been held accountable for it, and the department should have been held accountable. A man who needed help was killed. You compare what happened to him with what happened to the white guy who killed three people and ran around naked down southwest and managed not to get killed being taken into custody and arrested for murder.

A Farewell to Franklin Street Gym
08/04/2020 12:00am

A VCU nexus of sports, music and the arts is now history. Like schools nationwide, looming unknowns confront Virginia Commonwealth University as it enters uncharted waters this month, the first full academic year since the outbreak of coronavirus. How many students will enroll And how will the institution juggle in-person versus remote learning Meanwhile, VCUs sprawling, 31,000-student campuses are at the epicenter of an unprecedented perfect storm. The pandemic has shattered the modulated rhythms of the universitys health and medical center while Monroe Park, in the heart of the schools Fan District campus, has been a staging ground this spring and summer for ongoing protests and marches sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Participants cries have triggered the removal of major vestiges of the cult of the Confederate Lost Cause here. Monuments to Confederates Joseph Bryan and Williams Carter Wickham have been swept from the park, while just blocks away images of Jefferson Davis, Thomas Stonewall Jackson, Matthew Fontaine Maury and Jeb Stuart have indecorously been hauled off from Monument Avenue.In the turmoil, few people on the mostly shuttered Monroe Park campus made much notice this spring as bulldozers chomped away at a major university landmark, the Franklin Street Gymnasium. This sprawling, red brick modernist building with aluminum jalousie windows had dominated the 800 block of West Franklin Street since 1952. So along with rubble from the three-story, architecturally unremarkable building, seven decades of associations have been swept away. But along with the memories of generations of students who matriculated, played sports or exercised here, many compelling figures from the disparate worlds of sports, entertainment and arts and letters baseballs Hank Aaron, musicians Alice Cooper and Bruce Springsteen, dancers Twyla Tharp and Robert Morris, and 20th century art world giants Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein played, performed or shared their knowledge there. And importantly, it was in this twice enlarged, modest gymnasium complex, squeezed onto an elegant block of late 19th-century mansions, that VCUs mens basketball players learned they could be national contenders. The Franklin Street gyms removal, to make room for a $121 million, six-story science, technology, engineering and math building, removes another important physical link to the universitys past. Completed in 1952, the gym was the campus first purpose-built structure. Previously, Richmond Professional Institute had only recycled aging residences and their outbuildings for educational, administrative and residential use. A History of ExpansionRichmond Professional Institute, which merged with the Medical College of Virginia in 1968 to become Virginia Commonwealth University, was established in 1917 during World War I. Initially there were only 52 students who took social work and occupational therapy classes. Tuition paid the bill. There was no outside funding. Its visionary founder, Henry H. Hibbs, cobbled together a campus by converting old houses and their dependencies on Franklin Street and Park Avenue. The mansion at West Franklin and Shafer streets, now Founders Hall, was RPIs first multiuse facility, with classrooms, dormitory rooms, administrative offices and a cafeteria. Hibbs cleverly selected that intersection for his nascent school since the Richmond Public Library was then directly across Shafter Street. RPI used that facility at no cost.During the 1920s and 30s, as Fan dwellers left the old neighborhood for the automobile suburbs, RPI purchased their homes. Athletics took place downtown at the YMCA or YWCA. Following World War II in the late 1940s, enrollment grew as veterans supported by the G.I. Bill caused facilities to burst at the seams. In 1950, the Commonwealth of Virginia budgeted $100,000 for an RPI gym, the first state funds ever allocated to the school. The state engineer added $200,000 more for the two-story structure that was constructed on the rear of a West Franklin Street lot, just east of Founders Hall. The new gym was accessible from a cobblestone-paved alley. Richmonders J. Binford Walford and O. Pendleton Wright were its architects.Occupation of the boxy, red brick building played a factor in RPI receiving its first-ever institutional accreditation in 1953 when the school had some 1,000 students.When the gym opened, Ed Allen was RPIs baseball coach. He soon took on additional duties as basketball coach and athletic director. His teams were the Green Devils and the school colors were green and gold, the same as RPIs one-time associated institution, the College of William & Mary. Trivia bit: Allen later renamed RPI teams the Rams for the mascot of his alma mater, the University of Rhode Island. Famous NamesAmong the first to play in the new gym were two future baseball greats serving in the Army in Virginia during the Korean War. Willie Mays and Don Newcombe played competitive basketball games for their bases in games Allen set up in the RPI gym. Mays, at Fort Eustis, would become center fielder for the New York and San Francisco Giants and New York Mets. Newcombe, stationed at Camp Pickett during the war, later pitched for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians. In 1956, the Franklin Street gym was enlarged with a three-story classroom addition also designed by Walford and Wright. It extended the building closer to the West Franklin sidewalk.Among the early wave of students in the expanded structure was Tom Robbins, a journalism major who wrote for The Postcript, the student newspaper. Its offices were upstairs in the new gym. One of his columns in the 1958-1959 academic year, Walks on the Wild Side, captured the hip goings on West Grace Street: It takes on an insect quality in the spring, he wrote of the neighborhood, People swarm over the front porches and over the front steps of every Beat apartment house. Robbins later wrote novels Even Cow Girls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. It was intercollegiate basketball, however, that brought the Franklin Street Gym affection and fame. That cramped, hot, underwhelming gym became the lab where the DNA of VCU basketball was formulated, wrote Richmond Times-Dispatch sportswriter Wayne Epps Jr. recently, in a eulogy to the arena. Visiting teams were often shocked at its cramped facilities since the spaces were smaller than their high school gyms. Spaces alongside the basketball court were so narrow that folding chairs for opposing squads were set at far ends of the court. The gyms completion coincided with major civil rights activities here and nationwide. A January 1960 basketball game between RPI and nearby racially integrated Union Theological Seminary, now Union Presbyterian Seminary, was canceled by university officials at a time that sit-ins were being held at downtown lunch counters. An unsigned article in The Ghost, a local alternative newspaper, mused sarcastically about state-supported RPI: It is fine and dandy and brotherly lovely to play ball against negroes so long as you dont play on state property you all know the tradition.Big Bang for VCU ArtsIf the VCUs mens and womens basketball programs came of age in the Franklin Street Gym, the universitys School of the Arts also sprouted there. In addition to studios in the building, in 1964 some art professors staged the first annual Bang Arts Festival. The goal was to bring to Richmond contemporary music, drama, choreography, film, painting and graphics, as well as promote discussion and contact with artists from beyond the city. The festival featured Jesse The Lone Cat Fuller, a blues singer from Georgia who played an instrument of his own invention called a fotdella, which he operated by using various parts of his anatomy. A highlight of the better documented second Bang festival, in April 1965, was a panel discussion held in the gym, Crisis in Painting Today. Internationally known painters Larry Rivers and Roy Lichtenstein, Thomas Hess, the highly regarded editor of Art News magazine, and New York author Allen Solomon spoke. With the Vietnam conflict a rising concern, another event in the gym was a happening choreographed by professor Richard Carlyon that addressed the horrors of war. It included marching soldiers in sunglasses, bicycles and a mass murder scene featuring women in bathing suits. But the performance that got the festival organizers in hot water was Waterman Switch, a piece featuring Yvonne Rainer and Robert Morris, two well-known New York dancers. The pair, both nude, embraced and moved extremely slowly across the stage. The next day, RPI President George Oliver summoned the art professors and demanded an explanation for condoning obscene activity. Then, as if on cue, Theresa Pollak, the founding dean of the School of the Arts, arrived and waxed poetic to Oliver about the performance: I wish you could have seen it, she told her superior. No one was fired. At the third installment of Bang in March 1966 a panel discussion on contemporary art was held in the gym. Art, Non-Art, Anti Art was moderated future best-selling author and 59 alumnus Tom Robbins. World famous artists on the panel included Donald Judd, Barnett Newman and Ernest Trova. The final Bang festival took place in April 1967. Participants who flew in from New York were greeted at the airport by a festive, costumed assembly of students who led a parade of decorated trucks and cars back to campus. Later, in the gym, a dance included Twyla Tharp, one of our nations leading choreographers and dancers. Also performing in the gym at the festival was Steel Mill, a band featuring a longhaired guitarist named Bruce Springsteen.Basketball LegacyOn the basketball court, in 1966 Charles McLeod, a transfer from Virginia State, was the first Black man to play basketball for the mens Rams. While at RPI he and five other students established an African-American Studies Program.The last game played in the old Franklin Street gym was held on Feb. 19, 1970. The Rams defeated Hampden-Sydney College 87-81. The outcome of that game, like others, was swayed by the opposing players being rattled by noise from the fans. Today, this Rams tradition continues.A second addition to the Franklin Street Gym was completed in time for the 1970-71 season. This eastward wing dignified the building with a faux-classical temple front of four peculiar colossal columns fronting Franklin Street. Designed by Wright, Jones & Wilkinson, it also had a swimming pool in the basement.The 1,500-seat new gym opened directly through double doors to the old gym. The opening mens Rams season saw a brilliant 11-0 home record. Among the victories was a remarkable 63-56 overtime win over the much more powerful University of Minnesota.From 1968 to 1979, when the Rams moved their home court to the Richmond Coliseum, the Rams went 74-3 in the Franklin Street Gym. But there was reportedly a distinct advantage. The basket at the eastern end of the court was 1.5 inches lower than regulation. VCU teams always concentrated on building a lead in the first half at that end of the court. The new Franklin Street Gym however, was attractive enough for the Virginia Squires, a professional ABA team, in 1971. They used it for pre-season training with Julius Dr. J. Irving and Charlie Scott playing. After moving to the Coliseum, the mens Rams continued to use the gym as a practice facility and the womens team played games there until 1999 when the Siegel Center was opened. But despite VCUs fired-up basketball fans, perhaps the loudest nights in the gym occurred at a rock concert on May 23, 1970, and the contract called for the space being vacated at 11 p.m. Bruce Springsteen and his musicians were performing Going Back to Georgia and Sweet Melinda when the security staff shut off the electricity. That didnt stop the band, especially drummer Vini Lopez. The audience continued to whoop and holler according to an observer. Police were called in and fistfights ensued. Lopez spent the night downtown.Springsteen would return to the gym for other concerts, as would Alice Cooper and such punk rock greats as the Ramones.But from 1952 to 2019, thousands of students, many of them not necessarily athletic and artistic, passed through the Franklin Street Gym. Their memories may be of classes in communications, visual arts, theater, or art foundation. There were swim and wrestling meets and gym classes. Richmonder Melanie Berman Becker, a sociology and social welfare student who graduated in 1967, took gym: I showed up, what can I tell you Phys ed was not high on my hit parade, so I took ballroom dancing, folk dancing and a golf class there. I didnt have to wear a gym suit, thank god. Becker says that the plain facilities didnt deter her college experience: RPI allowed me to be somebody.

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VDH suspends permit for Calabash Seafood in Mechanicsville
08/09/2020 3:30pm

Calabash Seafood in Mechanicsville has been serving food for almost two weeks since the Virginia Department of Health suspended their restaurant permit for not enforcing social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.

5.1 earthquake reported near NC, several report feeling it in Virginia
08/09/2020 8:06am

A 5.1 magnitude earthquake has been reported Sunday morning near Sparta, N.C., according to USGS. Thats near the Virginia border.

Body found in private pond in Amelia County
08/09/2020 3:06pm

Amelia County Sheriffs deputies responded to a report yesterday evening of a deceased male body in a private pond in the 6000 block of Dennisville Road.

Chesterfield Police investigating crash that left one woman dead
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Chesterfield County Police said they are investigating a Saturday afternoon accident that left one woman dead.

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