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RVA Magazine

RVA Magazine

Richmond, VA

(804) 349-5890


Richmond Free Press

Richmond Free Press

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(804) 644-0496


Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond Times-Dispatch

300 E Franklin St
Richmond, VA 23219   Directions

(804) 649-6000


Style Weekly

Style Weekly

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Richmond, VA 23224   Directions

(804) 358-0825


A new group show at Page Bond Gallery offers wide view of talent
12/11/2018 12:00am

Ask an artist about the benefits of being in a group show and youll likely encounter a lot of enthusiasm.Given their range, group shows bring in a diverse crowd of interested viewers, so they can be a good way to attract new attention. Artists often find that having so much combined creative energy in the gallery at one time to be inspirational and thought-provoking.Gather, a group exhibition of works at Page Bond Gallery by established and emerging artists from Virginia and elsewhere surveys an array of art practices including glass, painting, photo-based works, sculpture and works on paper. According to gallery owner Bond, the exhibition title is multifaceted. One, this is the time of year when we spend time gathering together, whether with family or friends. Two, group exhibitions are a gathering of talent and three, gathering different artists together creates a visual experience for collectors, creating a kind of mash up, which is great for both artists, collectors and for me as the curator.Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Roberto Jamora paints primarily with oil and adds beeswax as a way to transfer aspects of a memory onto canvas. One Paradise to Another is inspired by the colors of the landscape of Puerto Vallarta and New Orleans. While an artist-in-residence at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans last fall, Jamora made a quick trip to Puerto Vallarta for a wedding. The green, for me, alludes to the bold color that homes in New Orleans are often painted, he explains. This painting is a kind of celebration of color from these specific places and events in my life.Sayaka Suzuki came to Richmond for graduate school in 2003 and stayed on as faculty at VCU. After being part of two studio collectives, she built a studio at her home in Richmonds East End. Exploring Japanese textiles and motifs in her work was a way of examining her origins and the idea of being an immigrant. Sashiko Cranes was created using acrylic, cotton thread, wallboard and wood, first painting and then embroidering the drywall.Embroidery through Sheetrock is rather a physical and violent act, stabbing and pulling, Suzuki says. But ultimately it creates a soft imagery of things and ideas that I want to preserve and nurture.An adjunct professor of sculpture at University of Richmond, Fiona Ross uses a nib pen and sumi ink on paper to create her intricate drawings. Repeated applications of the ink cause it to become glossy and also make the paper pucker and ripple, adding elements of raised relief topographic maps to the artworks. Fractal Eclipse 21 was inspired by the eclipse and celestial globes, spheres and ring dials. Her intent was to capture some of the wonder she felt seeing tiny, fractured crescents of the sun on the ground in the shadows of the fluttering leaves of the trees, the unusual color of the atmosphere and the arcing path of the moon as it passed between the sun and the Earth. The fractals shapes I use stand for the constant state of change caused by geological forces, she says. It also symbolizes how our imperfect knowledge is accumulated in fragments.A Virginian since fourth grade, S. Ross Brown seeks to give a visual context for self-actualization and self-determination as it pertains to historically marginalized Americans, while also giving aesthetic credence to the notion of kinetic spirit. Of The Spirit of Her Familiar, he explains, I find my inspiration in my observations of life itself, especially as it pertains to the indomitable spirit of the people of the diaspora. Brown sees group shows as a means of unifying cultures, ethnicity and creative outlooks in conjunction with a high level of artistic virtuosity and professionalism. Everyone agrees that the advantage of a group exhibition is that it allows for thinking more broadly about talent.Page Bonds group shows are extremely supportive of local artists and the often unconventional ways in which artists like to work, Suzuki says. Its always beneficial to be exhibited in this manner alongside artists who are challenging and pushing new ideas and ways of working.Gather opens Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. and runs through Jan. 7 at Page Bond Gallery, 1625 W. Main St. pagebondgallery.com.

Holmes for the Holidays: Virginia Rep’s murder mystery “The Game’s Afoot” is light holiday fare, lifted by strong performances
12/11/2018 12:00am

In his heyday, the character of Sherlock Holmes was so popular that not even his creator could get rid of him. Tired of writing adventures for the cocaine-addled detective and hoping to devote himself to more serious literature, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously killed off his creation in the 1893 short story The Final Problem. But pressure from fans was too great, and Conan Doyle returned to writing the character.In the marketing material for its new show The Games Afoot, Virginia Repertory Theatre leans into Sherlocks likeness, showing local actor Scott Wichmann in the deerstalker cap and Inverness cape of Baker Streets finest. This is a bit misleading: Wichmann doesnt play Holmes, but the famous 20th century stage actor William Gillette.An American who wrote the play Sherlock Holmes with Conan Doyle and portrayed the detective in both New York and London, Gillette used his amassed fortune to build a replica medieval castle in Connecticut. Its there that The Games Afoot is set.Following a Sherlock Holmes performance where someone made an attempt on his life, Gillette has called his friends and colleagues from the theater world to his mansion for a holiday retreat. But this is no ordinary Christmas party: Gillette hopes to expose the would-be assassin through a series of games. Things get off to a slow start as the audience encounters Gillettes cast of contemporaries. Gillette, his best friend Felix Joe Pabst and Felixs wife Madge Lisa Kotula engage themselves in a game where they quote Shakespeare. The young actors Simon Caleb Wade and Aggie Meg Carnahan announce that they have just eloped. Gillettes rude mother Madge Catherine Shaffner presses just about all to share personal details theyd rather not.The proceedings get a goosing with the addition of Daria Chase Donna Marie Miller, a New York theater critic and gossip columnist. Miller gives the show some of its funniest moments as a character whos quick with a barb and even quicker to bed. As her adulterous lover, Pabst is charming as a witty actor with a tinge of jealousy over his best friends success.Wichmann is funny as well, but serves more as the eye of the storm for the happenings around him, the Jerry to everyone elses George, Elaine and Kramer. As the late arriving Inspector Goring, Audra Honaker pulls out all the stops to give her character a kooky presence.Its these performances that buoy a show that would otherwise be mildly amusing. Ken Ludwig better known for his comic plays Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo has created an uneven script thats all over the place, jumping from farcical moments to serious drama to pure nonsense at one point, the characters yip like cartoon Indians in an attempt to scare away a murderer.For light holiday fare, this murder mystery farce fits the bill, but you cant help but feel its lacking something elementary.Virginia Repertory Theatres The Games Afoot plays through Jan. 6 at Hanover Tavern, 13181 Hanover Courthouse Road, 23069. For information, visit va-rep.org or call 282-2620.

2018: the Year in Review
12/11/2018 12:00am

JanuaryOne Sheriff Enters, One Chief LeavesA new and improved city jail opened four and a half years ago as the Richmond City Justice Center, built to reduce overcrowding with 1,032 beds. With about 800 to 900 people incarcerated each day, there are better conditions and breathing room.But so, too, are there empty spots for staff. Sheriff Antionette Irving took over Jan. 1 facing 80 vacancies. While shes been filling positions, overtime to fill the gaps has been costly, according to a report in The Richmond Times-Dispatch: As of November, the jail was on track to spend $3.2 million more than its annual operating budget.A Richmond native, Irving is a former college basketball player who rose through the ranks in the Henrico County Sheriffs Office. She beat longtime Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. last year.I just want to be able to make a difference, to show young people that came up in the same situation that I did that there are a lot of possibilities out there, she told Style in January. Your circumstances dont have to define who you are.While Irving works on her legacy as sheriff, another law-enforcement leader ends his. Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham announced his retirement Nov. 13 after four years as chief and a 31-year career.Meals Tax Debate Before this year, the last time the restaurant industry endured a tax increase was in 2003. Raised to 6 percent, it was reported to be temporary, with the intention of paying for CenterStage. Fifteen years later, not only is it still in existence, but its going up. The mayor delivered an impassioned speech in mid-January, lobbying for an increase to 7.5 percent, which he said would generate more than $9 million in additional annualrevenue to fund Richmond Public School facilities.You may recall that some restaurant owners, shockingly, werent thrilled with this plan. The tax increase went into effect over the summer, and it will fund the replacements ofGeorge Mason Elementary School, E.S.H. Greene Elementary School, and Elkhart-Thompson Middle School. The district plans to break ground on the new schools Dec. 19.Gov. Ralph Northams Inauguration Once again, extreme weather plagued the otherwise dignified and celebratory inauguration ceremony of a Virginia governor. The skies didnt dump rain on the crowd like back in 2014, but they were gray and dreary, allowing very little warmth from the sun to penetrate the 40-degree day with that biting January wind. Since his inauguration, Northam hasnt made many headlines, operating as a behind-the-scenes politician. In November, the governor was criticized for replacing two members of an environmental board just before a vote on a new natural gas facility in a historic black community. Redemption Rally On a chilly, rainy Monday evening, a few dozen activists gathered outside the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority offices. Community organizers planned the Jan. 8 rally to protest the agencys inaction after more than 50 families in Creighton Court, the housing authority-run development off Nine Mile Road, reported being without heat for weeks. About two weeks later, executive director T.K. Somanath resigned amid the criticism. Former board member Orlando Artze stepped in as interim director, and the board has not yet hired a permanent replacement. Executive Director Bails on the ICAIn a surprise move, the executive director of Virginia Commonwealth Universitys Institute for Contemporary Art, Lisa Freiman, decided to return to her scholarly roots just three months before the hot new museum was slated to open in April. The well-known Joe Seipel, dean emeritus of the universitys School of the Arts, stepped in as interim director. Lesley Bruno, communications manager at the institute, admits it was sudden and not discussed in the office prior to the announcement.House Hunters Hit Church Hill OK, the actual house hunting happened several months prior to January. But thats when an episode of HGTVs popular reality not to be confused with realistic show House Hunters, aired featuring a young couple buying a home in our fair city. Kyle and Rachel Lane, newlyweds from Denver, ended up buying a quaint, two-bedroom row house in Church Hill, after turning down properties in the West End and Chesterfield. The house checked most of the boxes for the Lanes and their dog and pot-bellied pig, except for the lack of closet space. According to the couple, thats part of the charm. FebruaryShowtimes Homeland Season Seven AirsLet the drinking games begin Richmonders with Showtime started watching season seven of the spy drama Homeland on Feb. 11, which was shot largely in Richmond. Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, says that while there hasnt been an official audit, the estimated direct spending in the state is north of $40 million, which represents the biggest single expenditure in Virginias history. Later, we get to see Emmy-winning Claire Danes rave about our restaurant scene in a tourism promo commercial for Richmond and dont even get me started on the yarn stores, she says in what should be a bumper sticker somewhere. MarchTerra Cotta Warriors draw near record-setting visitation to VMFAOn March 11, 10 ancient, nearly life-sized terra cotta figures got some peace and quiet after being gazed upon since October. They were the highlight of 130 objects of ancient Chinese art and craftwork displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The terra cotta works were selected from the 8,000 figures that still guard the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China. It drew audiences to the museum that eclipsed all previous shows except the Pablo Picasso exhibition in 2011.James River Film Fest Turns 25Largely due to the persistence of Mike Jones, the little indie film fest that could turned 25 this year and guess what Its still in love with interesting movies. Among this years honored guests was acclaimed indie film director Kelly Reichardt Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, who turned out to be as cool in person as her movies. There was also a lovely tribute to one of Hollywoods greatest character actors ever, Harry Dean Stanton, featuring Richmond native and production designer Almitra Corey, who worked on his last picture, the sadly poignant Lucky. Richmond continues to grow as a film town. The Afrikana Film Festival, which this year scored hot director Boots Riley and a premiere of If Beale Street Could Talk, our renowned French Film Festival and an ambitious Pocahontas Reframed Storytellers Film Festival are all doing well and serving overlooked demographics in film. But its still nice to give some props to the first film festival that really got a foothold in the city. Lucy Dacus Drops Historian AlbumAfter turning national heads with her poised debut, young singer and songwriter Lucy Dacus releases her sophomore LP, Historian on Matador Records on March 2. Later in the year, it would be named best album of the year by Paste Magazine. The Maggie L. Walker Governors School graduate would also team up with other rising songwriters Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridges to form Boygenius and release an EP in November. Oh, and she played a lot of shows in between the releases. Yes, it was another big year for perhaps Richmonds most acclaimed working songwriter. The crazy thing Shes only 23. March for Our Lives After 17 students and faculty died in a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Valentines Day, teenagers around the country were furious. They started speaking out, calling elected officials and challenging the adults in the room to do something about gun violence, and March 24 they took that message to the streets. Here in Richmond, thousands joined the student-led rally, including Mayor Levar Stoney and Sen. Tim Kaine. Polls across the board named gun reform as one of the top issues going into this years midterm elections, and the group Moms Demand Action has quietly and determinedly lobbied for stricter gun-related legislation on the state level. AprilThe Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University finally opensTalk about a public birth. For many months, motorists and pedestrians at Belvidere and West Broad streets, the citys busiest intersection, watched and wondered as an origamilike structure arose from a vacant lot. But by April 21, when the Institute for Contemporary at the Markel Center opened its glass doors, it was clear that the building, by internationally-celebrated architect Steven Holl, was unique. The wider world took notice too. Wrote Philip Kennicott, architecture critic for the Washington Post: There is nothing else like it in Richmond, and it presents a striking contrast with the rest of the VCU campus, a messy urban environment of dispiriting, corporate-style academic architecture of the 1970s, and acres of generic infill from recent years. He suggested that perhaps the virtues of Holls building will inspire VCU to think more seriously about improving architecture across the whole of its campus.The General Assembly Building bites the dustIn the spring, with Virginia legislators settled into temporary office digs in the Pocahontas Building at the foot of Capitol Hill, the 106-year old General Assembly Building was met with the wrecking ball. Well, most of it an architecturally-magnificent, south-facing facade was saved. But the structure itself, by Clinton & Russell, architect of many of the grandest buildings on Wall Street, wasnt spared. Neither was a 1968 modernist addition by architect Marcellus Wright and Son, a Richmond firm. Funny, the latter building was included in guidebook to exemplary buildings in the Old Dominion that the state, itself, published. While many other Virginia agencies operate from nearby, restored buildings, the clerks, delegates and senators saw fit to build themselves a Taj Mahal that could cost more than $300 million.Jason Mraz Makes a VideoJason Mraz, the now-California-based singer and songwriter who grew up Mechanicsville, spent a weekend filming an official music video in the River City. In partnership with the School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, which Mraz attended as a child, he filmed the peppy, catchy video with the help of a couple hundred local kids. We got a front-row seat of the filming process, not to mention an opportunity to sit down and chat with one of Richmonds golden boys who bailed for an avocado farm on the Left Coast. May Monument Rally Its all become a little formulaic. A small group of out-of-towners, holding guns and wearing the rebel flag, gathers at the base of a Confederate statue on Monument Avenue to protest potential plans for removal. In response, a significantly larger number of counterprotesters also show up, waving Take them down signs and singing songs about peace and acceptance. The police presence is abundant, and there may be a tense few moments of hurling insults from one side to the other, but its nonviolent and overall uneventful. Ultimately both sides agree theyd rather be anywhere but there, and the event dissipates within a few hours. We saw this scenario play out a couple times this year, the Confederates always outnumbered by the counterprotesters. Organizers have indicated that they intend to continue making the trip to Richmond to protest at Robert E. Lees feet. Sabrina Squires Signs OffIf you grew up around Richmond in the 80s, the 90s, or the 2000s or anytime since then, and watched the news on WWBT Channel 12, you know her face and that big bright smile. After four decades in broadcasting, co-anchor Sabrina Squires retired May 23. One of my first orders of business is trying to rediscover what seven or eight hours of sleep is like, she told Style. Ive been a morning person thrust into a nighttime position for four decades. Im just going to spend much of my summer away from news, working on self-care.Well miss you smile, Sabrina. Enjoy the golden years.Police Shooting of Marcus-David Peters In a perplexing sequence of events with devastatingly sad results, 24-year-old high school teacher Marcus-David Peters died in May after Richmond police officer Michael Nyantakyi shot him in the abdomen May 14. The officers body camera footage revealed haunting footage of Peters, completely naked, running from his car into the interstate, where he writhed and rolled on the asphalt, before returning to his feet and lunging at Nyantakyi. Peters family members were vocal in the aftermath, adamant that he needed help, not death. Protestors took to the streets in a march for justice and reformation, demanding more accountability from the Richmond Police Department. After a months-long investigation, the commonwealths attorney announced that the shooting was an act of a justifiable homicide, and thus would not press criminal charges against Nyantakyi. Despite his familys insistence that drugs werent involved, the toxicology report revealed that THC and Ritalin, for which he didnt have a prescription, were present in Peters system on the day of his death.JuneThe GRTC Pulse BeginsThere were months of kvetching over the loss of business due to the extended construction period of the Pulse, a new, $65 million, 7.6 mile, bus route with terminal points at Rocketts Landing and Willow Lawn. But giddiness prevailed June 24, and continued during the systems first weeks of operation, as first-time bus riders, families and tourists gave it a try. Almost half a year later, patterns have developed: University students are discovering the system and the overwhelmingly African-American riders of the former GRTC Broad Street 6 route have switched to this new route. Sadly, three of the Pulses 14 stations get little traffic, East Riverfront in no-mans land, Allison Street in the Fan District, and Staples Mill in the West End. Stoneys Team Turns OverThe original brain trust has left the building.Much of Mayor Levar Stoneys new team remains alongside him, of course no one more alongsider than his chief of staff and good buddy, J. E. Lincoln Saunders. But the last of the senior advisers he brought to City Hall rotated off this year.Most notable was Jon Baliles, a former City Councilman, who ran against Stoney for mayor but took his name out of the running before Election Day. Stoney tapped him as senior policy adviser for innovation. He left the post in January, somewhat quietly, to take on new opportunities.Three weeks later, Lisa Speller-Davis said goodbye to her post as senior policy adviser for engagement to become a policy analyst for the Virginia Department of Health Professions Board of Nursing.The third leg of the original policy adviser stool, Thad Williamson, left his part-time role with the mayor in June to focus on his full-time gig as an associate professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond.Senior advisers will come and go, but youll always remember your firsts.A Bridge Between Parties Leads to Medicaid ExpansionGov. Ralph Northam declared it a little more than a thousand words into his 2,359-word inauguration address. It is past time for us to step forward together and expand Medicaid to nearly 400,000 Virginians who need access to care, he said.Such speeches, delivered in formal attire on the steps of the State Capitol, are part of a grandiose ceremony every four years in which lofty ambitions are outlined and legislative hopes detailed. This Medicaid expansion, surely, was one of them an idea that had been bickered about for years.But this agenda item was checked off a few months later.Perhaps the debates leading into the 2018 General Assembly session had laid the groundwork. Maybe it helped that Republicans in Congress ended up stumped on what to do about Obamacare. A few days after Northams inauguration, a survey by Public Opinion Strategies, paid for by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, showed overwhelming public support by Virginians to expand Medicaid.It passed in May, was signed into law in June, opened to enrollment in November and is set to take effect in January. And people are signing up in droves. Officials say their original estimates and costs were too low, with the Washington Post recently reporting that 375,000 low-income residents will be signed up by June 2020.JulyPeople Turn Down the Volume on Rebel YellsThe debates as old as the Civil War itself. But elected leaders, residents and even a theme park severed more ties with Confederate names and symbols.One of Levar Stoneys first moves as mayor established a Monument Avenue Commission in June 2017 to explore ways to counter nostalgia masquerading as history, in the form of Confederate statues that long have stood on the iconic avenue.After research, discussions and some public meetings that devolved into shouting, the commission issued its final report a little more than a year later, in July. It suggested adding historical context to markers near the statues, working on new exhibits and statues, taking down the Jefferson Davis monument and creating a new work commemorating the United States Colored Troops.Five months since the report was issued, no next steps have been implemented.But at Kings Dominion, summer roller-coaster riders could climb aboard the Racer 75, formerly known as the Rebel Yell. Petersburg scrubbed three elementary schools of Confederate nomenclature, using a donation to help cover costs of the changes. And Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras says one of the proudest moments in his first year was flipping J.E.B. Stuart to Barack Obama Elementary School.Up next: A re-emerged idea is under consideration to give the Boulevard a name that would honor tennis great and humanitarian Arthur Ashe.Richmond Public Art Coordinator Quietly BailsOn July 6, Ellyn Parker, the citys public art coordinator, quietly left her job and took a position as an exhibition manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Her departure comes just a few months after City Council unanimously voted to gut the public art fund of $2.15 million for amendments to the mayors capital budget, leaving $1 million in the one percent for the arts fund. In October, the City Council would at least pledge to put some of the money, about $264,000 back into the art fund. Latest we checked, the public art coordinator job had not been filled.Churches Take Sanctuary SeriouslyAn undocumented Honduran mother, Abbie Arevalo Herrera, and two of her children have taken sanctuary at First Unitarian Universalist Church where theyve been since June 19. She was to be deported after an immigration judge ruled that she was in the country illegally. But she was offered refuge by the church after they learned that she feared for her life upon returning to Honduras due to an abusive ex-husband. Now she and her kids live mostly in the church basement, over near Byrd Park. Arevalo Herrera is just one of many victims of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruling on June 11 that domestic abuse is no longer grounds for asylum and churches have been stepping up to help, taking their mission seriously. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy. But if a 2011 memo from the Department of Homeland Security recognizing churches as sensitive locations is reversed, Arevalo Herrera and others like her could be removed by federal agents and deported. I dont know how much time its going to be staying here, she told Style. But I do have the ability to stay here for as much time as I need, from the reverend. I have the faith and hope that something is going to move in the hearts of the people who have taken away our protections.Media Owners Come and GoThe Richmond-based Virginia Mercury, an online media outlet backed by nonprofit donors, launched July 17. Headlines hit on safety in schools, eviction rates and needle-exchange programs to fight hepatitis C.A handful of reporters with experience from print media, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginian-Pilot and Style Weekly, joined the venture to dig into the kinds of complex issues that not every outlet covers or has the means to.The Mercury is another sign of the long, slow media transition thats been underway since the dot-com days of the 90s. Were hoping to quickly broaden our donor base to include others who support more coverage of Virginia government and policy issues, Editor-in-Chief Robert Zullo said in an email.Zullos rsum includes the Times-Dispatch, where Publisher Tom Silvestri announced in February, The continued disappearance of print advertising, now coupled with rising newsprint costs, will mean in 2018 we will have to do more with fewer resources. Silvestris announcement coincided with layoffs, eliminated positions, a tighter online pay wall and an increase in subscription prices.Style Weekly, too, is navigating changes and a much smaller editorial staff under a new owner, after its private parent was sold to Chicago-based Tronc for $34 million in May.Most recently, the TV station owner dance has hit locally, too. If the acquisition passes government muster, Nexstar, which owns WRIC-TV 8, will own Tribune Media, which owns WTVR-TV 6. It cant own both, so either way, both stations are getting a new owner.SeptemberUnannounced Bird DroppingsForgiveness rather than permission may be an effective business approach in some scenarios, but city officials were none too pleased to wake up one morning in September to find dockless electric scooters had descended upon the streets of Richmond illegally. Despite receiving a cease and desist letter, Bird continued operating without permission, simply dumping more scooters on the sidewalks as Seiberts Towing impounded them by the truckload. The mayors office drafted an ordinance outlining a pilot program to allow the scooters, and Stoney noted that the process was made more difficult by Birds refusal to play by the rules. The proposed cost would include a $1,500 permit application, and then an annual fee of $40,000 for as many as 100 scooters, $60,000 for up to 200 and $80,000 for as many as 500. Bird scooters continue to pop up in the city, particularly around Virginia Commonwealth University. City Council has yet to approve the pilot program. VCU Names New ICA DirectorVirginia Commonwealth University names Dominic Willsdon as the new executive director of its Institute for Contemporary Art, replacing Joe Seipel, who served as interim director. The new head is leaving his job as the Leanne and George Roberts curator of education and public practice at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Prior to joining it in 2006, he was curator of public programs at the Tate Modern in London for five years, where he helped establish a partnership with the British Film Institute.OctoberMonroe Park ReduxMonroe Park was akin to an unlovely moth when a construction fence cocooned it for a two-year makeover. Planners sought to make the late-19th century green space more hospitable, environmentally sustainable and safer. The joint venture included the Monroe Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit foundation, the City of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and a host of advisors. In October, when the park, defined by Belvidere, West Main, West Franklin and Laurel streets, was completed, a butterfly emerged. Some have argued otherwise, mourning the loss of substantial tree canopy. But varied plantings, water-control systems, a restored park house and a festive new gazebo are just a few of the new amenities that made the wait worthwhile. For the first time since 1968, when the university established its Monroe Park campus, the park itself is a worthy centerpiece of one of the states largest universities. NovemberMidterm Elections It wasnt exactly the blue wave many predicted, but the House of Representatives flipped from Republican-led to a Democratic majority, with historic wins for women. In Virginias 7th District, newcomer Democrat Abigail Spanberger edged out Republican incumbent Dave Brat, who was widely criticized for refusing to hold town hall meetings with his constituents. A former CIA officer, mother of three, Girl Scout leader and Richmond-area native, Spanberger ran on a left-of-center platform with the hopes of attracting conservatives frustrated with the Republican party. Spanberger represents an economically and culturally diverse district, with upper-class suburban families in one corner and rural farmers in another. Shes spent the last several weeks traveling back and forth between Central Virginia and Washington, and one of her first official moves as a congresswoman-elect was to vote against Nancy Pelosis nomination for speaker of the House, sticking to one of her campaign promises. A special election for the 7th District seat on the Richmond School Board also took place this November. Incumbent Cheryl Burke, a longtime educator who lived, taught and worked as an elementary school principal in the East End for years, beat out two first-time candidates for the spot on the board. A Powerful Coalition Pushes a $1.4 Billion PlanThis dream could be yours, they say. A group of wealthy, well-connected and powerful interests pitching themselves as well-meaning visionaries with business sense who want to solve Richmond ills spotted opportunities in a 10-block area of downtown and an aging Coliseum.Give them a little faith, lend them some land and hand over new tax revenue from the next three decades generated by an 80-block swath of downtown and theyll give you a revitalized downtown, hotel, housing, retail, restaurants and the biggest arena in Virginia. On top of it all, they say there is literally no risk to you, and no new taxes.Sounds good, rightNow, for the messy part trying to figure it all out. To evaluate the ginormous proposal, you must understand tax-increment financing, sift through pages of spreadsheets with predictions from the future, dance through city officials who push back against transparency and efforts of City Council to weigh the costs and benefits and figure out who exactly might be the people behind it all. For now, thats not public.Could be amazing. Could be a catastrophe. Maybe itll be somewhere in the middle. But make no mistake: You are no match for their money. The decision will depend on three City Council members. If three vote no, the dream is no mo. Groundbreaking at Church Hill North Residents have seen this before, so many remained skeptical when local and state officials stuck shovels in the ground on Nov. 6 and smiled for the cameras at the old Armstrong High School site. The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority lost out on a 2016 grant that would have expedited the development of a new mixed-incoming housing community called Church Hill North, where some Creighton Court residents eventually will move. Without that grant, the funding process has been slow and complicated. But the Community Builders, a Boston-based developer thats worked with the housing authority, has a history of successfully constructing and maintaining the affordability of communities like this one, and officials are optimistic that the model will work in Richmond. The developers project that residents will be able to move into the first phase by the end of 2019. Carillon ceremony marks end of World War I Gov. Ralph Northam, Delegate Betsy Carr, and Councilman Parker Agelasto were among state and city officials who attended colorful observances Nov. 11 marking the centennial of the end of the war to end all wars. A respectful throng gathered at Dogwood Dell and heard the bells of the Carillon, Virginias memorial to that conflict, peal mournfully.DecemberThe 17th Street Farmers Market gets a makeoverMerchants and restaurateurs in the vicinity of the venerable 17th Street Farmers Market, an old city destination that had looked its age for far too long, clung by their fingernails financially as the demolition of old structures and construction of a sleeker, more event-friendly market took longer than expected. But perhaps the wait was worth specimen trees, handsome repaving, and even a new perch for the iconic terra cotta cattle heads that once oversaw the former Sixth Street Farmers Market downtown. Even the fruit, flower and vegetable vendors, an essential fixture in the market, dating to the 18th century, are trickling back. A New School Board Struggles with Money, Politics and Each OtherIt isnt often you see elected officials give themselves failing grades, as School Board member Jonathan Young did in a recent Style story.We as a board have been highly irresponsible and entirely negligent, he said, about the state of inaction in fixing dozens of ailing Richmond Public School facilities.Soon after taking office, the current School Board, now all-new, booted previous Superintendent Dana Bedden. It passed a five-year phase of a plan to fix schools, but has failed to land funding for it from City Council, though a meals-tax increase helped raise $150 million through bonds. That will pay for some of the plan.Theres a strategic plan, too, that will require big bucks.Superintendent Jason Kamras took over in January, getting a 100-day plan underway and beginning work on a five-year strategic effort that the School Board approved earlier this year. In December, the board learned that it would cost $150 million more to implement those changes during the next five years.Young isnt the only one of his colleagues to raise concerns about the state of schools. Mayor Levar Stoneys Education Compact, launched to bring together the mayor, School Board, City Council and others to discuss issues, hasnt exactly knocked it out of the park. But at least people are talking. Maybe more action will come soon.The state Department of Education, too, is all up in our business. Its working with Richmond according to a Memo of Understanding set in the summer of 2017, which intends to make change and get all Richmond schools accredited by 2026.Last Call at Strange MatterYou dont have to go home, but you cant stay here. Strange Matter, the latest iteration of the rock venue at 929 W. Grace St. right in the heart of student-ville, announces it will be closing Dec. 15 after a fanfare finale of shows. This place has history: You may have known the gritty, darkened room as the Back Door in the 70s, Twisters in the 90s, or Nanci Raygun in the early 2000s. An incredible list of local and national touring bands have gotten sweaty in the small room, from the likes of a young Bruce Springsteen before he was Bruuuuuuce to the nasty bare ass of Oderus Urungus and even the occasional Luscious Jackson or Cows show. Due to its venerable history alone, we hope that it will stay a music venue. But right now, nobodys talking. It doesnt appear, however, that Virginia Commonwealth University has swallowed it yet. Whatever happens, please just not another lame upscale fast-food joint.

Songs for Bronnie
12/11/2018 12:00am

A former singer becomes a model of courage after a Lou Gehrigs disease diagnosis. Sitting in the living room of the Zwicker household off Huguenot Road, playing one of the worlds shortest games of fetch with a feisty Chihuahua mix named Ziggy, Im having flashbacks to waiting on a high school date. The person Im here to meet, 36-year-old Bronwen Zwicker, is preparing with the help of two friends in a closed adjoining room, while her parents, Bob and Dianne, whom I just met, move silently in the kitchen. The familys home is cozy and filled with musical instruments acoustic guitars, an old upright piano across the hall. But this isnt that kind of date. And Zwicker is running late because everything she does now takes more time, even breathing. She lives here with her husband, Stephen Martineau, who is telling me about navigating complex insurance mazes while helping his wife deal with the traumatic journey that is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrigs disease. The rare and progressive neurological disease involves the deterioration of motor neurons, with the brain systematically losing its ability to control the bodys muscles, including those responsible for moving, speaking, eating and breathing. Its a relentless and cruel disease: Life expectancy is two to five years from diagnosis.Doctors told me its one of the most expensive diseases. You need to figure out how fast it is, so you can try to plan things out, Martineau says. To me, the biggest problem is that nobody really offers you information. You have to know the language, become a doctor yourself, to know you should be having this done at this point.Luckily for Zwicker, a graduate of Trinity Episcopal School and James Madison University, she still has a loving family and many friends who are pulling together to help. Theyre holding a benefit concert at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Saturday, Dec. 15, featuring her friend, Meg Remy of U.S. Girls just named the best live act in America by Paste Magazine as well as Dorthia Cotrell of Windhand, Gull and New Boss. Zwicker, a talented singer from a musical family, will be attending by way of a motorized chair with an attached breathing machine. A few years ago, ALS got a bump in public recognition thanks to the viral ice water bucket challenge, but its still not as well-funded or understood as other diseases. Every day an average of 15 people are diagnosed, more than 5,600 each year. A comparatively lucky 5 to 10 percent get a familial or genetic version, which moves much more slowly. But this is not Zwickers kind, she found out. Martineau explains that no two people with ALS are the same, each starts at a different place and progresses at a different rate. In his search for information, Team Gleason, a nonprofit foundation started by New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason, has been one of the best and quickest groups to help them, he says. And for this couple, prioritizing time is everything.When the two doors finally slide open, Bronwen Zwicker motor rolls into the room looking far too radiantly beautiful for what shes had to endure. When she speaks her voice is a little frail, slow and weak, her lung capacity diminished. Each of her words seems to require a focused effort. And even though swallowing is difficult, shes still smiling her eyes are still bright. Its the kind of thing that makes you feel bad for ever complaining about anything. We start out talking about happier times, when she was still belting out songs at the piano. Yeah, I was a pretty good singer, it came naturally. Not any more, she says with a faint laugh, before acknowledging, for the first of many times, how grateful she is for friends and family, including her sister, Vicki, and friend Kassie Richardson, who is on tour singing with U.S. Girls. Richardson met Bronwen at JMU, but says she really fell in love with the entire Zwicker family and their established tradition of back porch music playing. Being able to spend time, to transition into adulthood, really, with the Zwickers, helped me find my voice, Richardson says. If you go to the Zwickers house, you will be handed a guitar, and you will be expected to share a song.Bronwens symptoms were first noticed in July 2017, while she was helping her father move a mattress and two fingers on her left hand seized up. I shouldnt have dropped that, her husband recalls her saying at the time. A few months later, the couple brought home Ziggy, their little rescue dog who can fetch all day. During walks together, Zwicker began to occasionally stumble and sometimes collapse. A year ago, she was diagnosed with ALS and already, in that short span of time, the disease has left her unable to do much on her own. Asked what inspires her to keep going, Zwickers words slow down even more and take on an emotional weight that is almost unbearable. So many people, she says.Of course, my sister always letting me know that, whatever feelings or thoughts, are always acceptable, she says, crying softly through the words. My husband for always reminding me that Im still here. Because its easy to feel like a different person. He always helps to reinforce that Im still me. But it is hard to remember what life was like, before such a trauma.In hindsight, if she could go back to first being diagnosed, she says, What I wouldve done is walk more. By now, everyone in the room is ready to cry, but Zwicker stays upbeat. I think despite the circumstances Im still happy, which is weird, she says, giving credit to friends and family again. Its not too long from now that Ill probably require 24-hour care, which insurance doesnt pay for, and nobody can afford.This is a video of Bronwen having fun with a Miley Cyrus song at the piano a few years before her diagnosis:Sitting directly across from Zwicker is her mother, who is unable to speak due to a stroke. Throughout the interview, her kind eyes remain locked on her daughter, never once looking away. She clearly understands. Ive always been a person who evolves. Im open to change, Zwicker continues. So what Ive been working on for my diagnosis is spending as much time with my mother as I could. That led me to thinking about the importance of listening. Being present. And after the diagnosis, realizing there would come a point when Id be doing a whole lot more listening like mom.Currently Zwicker is on two medicines: One is 20 years old, while the newest one, Radicava endaravone, has been found to slow the disease by a third in some cases. She stopped an experimental treatment at Johns Hopkins University a few months ago after it proved too difficult to continue, her husband says. Initially covered under the Affordable Care Act, after getting married she switched to her husbands insurance through his job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Now shes on Medicare and his insurance pays for various machines, but not for caregivers like Eliza Childress, who comes to the house to assist her. Childress had never worked as a caregiver, but says she now cant imagine her life not having met Bronwen.Her positivity, sense of humor and her talents are boundless. She has taught me how to love more fully, be present, patient, to be more attentive and understanding of others wants or needs, she says. To move beyond personal hindrances as life does not adhere to our expectations of how we believe it should be. Its difficult to express how much she has come to mean to me.Friends and family have pulled together to help build a new accessible bathroom addition onto her parents home. In seven months, they raised online more than $40,000 of a $50,000 GoFundMe goal. But her costs will only continue to increase. Thats why this concert is so important, Richardson says. I could fill a book with the reasons Bronwen is special to me, Richardson says. But I dont know what people with ALS do who dont have friends and family who love them immeasurably or do not have any kind of funding whatsoever. The headliner for the concert, Meg Remy, whose smart and political dance pop with U.S. Girls has been praised by legends such as Iggy Pop, will be delivering a special solo set using tapes. She sent this via email: I look forward to coming down to Richmond to perform a scrappy, old-school U.S. Girls set in celebration of Bronwen and in protest of the inhumane conditions of the United States health-care quagmire.For Zwicker, who says she is not religious, she continues to handle the journey of the disease with a dignity and eloquence thats almost breathtaking at times. I think I was on a really good trajectory as a person, prior to my diagnosis, growing as a person and becoming increasingly sensitive to people around me. That hasnt changed, but its taken on a new form, she explains. How can I put this into words Another weird change is when people say, When Im old, Im going to do this and that. And Im thinking, you better do it now. The rest of us can only sit in silence, nodding our heads. Bronniefest 2018 featuring Meg Remy U.S Girls, Dorthia Cottrell Windhand, Gull and New Boss takes place on Saturday, Dec. 15, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. 5:30 to 10 p.m. Suggested donation of $20. There will be an art auction and raffle prizes. hardywood.com.

The Rat King discusses what it’s like being the regal rodent in Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
12/11/2018 12:00am

Tis the season for choreographed party waltzes, dancing dolls, twinkling snowflake flurries, a soaring swan, and sparkling sweets. Thats right, its Nutcracker time, and the Richmond Ballet will present the festive fable in all its glittering grandeur for the 35th year in a row. Audiences young and old will leave the theaters humming the overture and twirling to refrains of the Sugar Plum Fairy, but let us also give credit to the character that adds suspense and sizzle to the story: the Rat King. It would be difficult to imagine The Nutcracker without its signature stinker and rodent rapscallion. And while Rat King typically stands among ballets most vile villains, Richmond Ballets mischief-maker is less a scoundrel than a ham. Style Weekly caught up with the regal rodent to marvel at the mouse behind the myth, the big cheese himself. When asked how he first became interested in The Nutcracker, the Rat King recounted how a last-minute invitation to a holiday cocktail party precipitated a fortuitous introduction to the Richmond Ballets pioneering artistic director, Stoner Winslett. It was kismet. We locked eyes across the room and I knew I had a friend when she offered me brie instead of chasing me out the door with a broom, he says. I didnt even need to audition. Apparently, I was a perfect fit Though his ascent to Nutcracker nobility was fast and furious, King has a calm, collected, and thoughtful approach to his practice. He adheres to a rigorous diet to maintain his perfectly portly aesthetic, he says, eating only cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the grueling performance schedule, King commits to health and wellness. Im a big believer in self-care. After shows I like to come home and take a nice, hot bath to melt away the stresses of battle, he says.When asked if he has any preshow rituals, his toothy smile beams and he excitedly talks about getting revved up with my boys, my besties, my posse. To King, his fellow rats arent the minions of his mayhem, they are trusted confidantes and cherished friends with whom he delights in causing chaos. Rat No. 5, or El Cinqo, as he is commonly called, gushed that King is the true leader of our rat pack and we would follow him anywhere. Kings Rat No. 1 confirmed the groups love for the monarch adding simply, hes the best. And King shoulders the responsibility for his posse well, teaching them valuable skills like sharpening the flatware between their teeth before battle, and holding their tails backstage so an errant piece of scenery or a ballerinas pointe shoe doesnt put a kink in the armor. I learned that one the hard way, says the King as he tenderly strokes a furless spot towards the base of his tail. Surprisingly, the mouse remained mum when it came to the topic of love. He neither confirmed nor outright denied a rumored relationship with the Sugar Plum Fairy, mentioning only that she is a very delicate diva with a most unfortunate distaste for fondue.Acknowledging the need for a quick change of topic, we discussed the trajectory of the story and whether King ever longed to rewrite the script, reigning victorious in the battle. I enjoy my part in the story immensely and see myself really as the catalyst for all the beauty and magic that unfolds after my demise, he explains. My presence is the obstacle the Nutcracker must overcome before he becomes who he is meant to be. Only in my defeat can the Nutcracker become a true hero, a true prince. As seems fitting for the charmer, King adds with a sly grin: Plus, the land of Sweets isnt my ideal vacation spot. Perhaps when Clara and the Prince sail to the Cave of Cheese Ill change my tune.Stoner Winsletts The Nutcracker with the Richmond Symphony runs at Dominion Energy Center from Dec. 14 through 23 at various times with evening and matinee shows. Tickets cost $25 to $125. richmondballet.com.

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Jury recommends life in prison for white nationalist who murdered Heather Heyer
12/11/2018 11:19am

James Fields Jr. drove a car into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.

Outfits for Holiday Outings
12/11/2018 11:12am

Stylist and fashion blogger Jammie Baker showed off three looks that can be repurposed for multiple events this holiday season. Jammie along with two models showed looks for events from a fancy night out to stylish joggers.

“Laugh Yourself Healthy”
12/11/2018 11:11am

Author Slash Coleman joined us to talk about his yearlong experiment and Healthy Mornings Speaker Series called Laugh Yourself Healthy. Slash talked about his weekly laughter sessions and why making yourself laugh is good for your health.

Add a little bling to your holiday shopping
12/11/2018 11:10am

Fashion expert Emily Loftiss the Queen of Everyday Glamtalked abouther favorite pieces of jewelry for this years holiday gift giving. She had advice for every lady on your list and showed off some beautiful pieces.

Kidney donations could save a life
12/11/2018 11:09am

Living organ donations, like kidney donations, can make a real difference in someones life, and the Virginia Commonwealth University Hume-Lee Transplant Center is at the forefront of these procedures. Dr. Marlon Levy, the director of the Hume-Lee Transplant Center, along with two former patients, Lonnel Lewis and Jasmine Lewis, joined us to talk about the impacts of these donations.

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