Theresa Pollak (1899-2002), founder of both the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and the University of Richmond's arts programs, wasn't a single-minded academic. Throughout her long career, she continued to experiment. At almost 60 in 1958, she studied with abstract expressionist and master colorist hans Hofmann at his Provincetown, Mass., school. The experience challenged her, but Pollak persisted.
This year's honorees for the awards that bear her name reflect the layers of her impact: from restlessness about the next phase of work to teaching at either of the schools where Pollak's influence continues to be felt. Their personal process of art making has enriched the region's culture while representing Richmond in the wider world. Thus, here we recognize their contributions.
Lifetime Achievement Myra Daleng | Emerging Artist Eric Knight
The selectors said: Myra has had many remarkable achievements in her expansive career. During the past 25 years at the University of Richmond, she built a dance program, with both a major and a minor, from a small, extracurricular activity. It has since drawn internationally known choreographers to Richmond. Myra founded and directed a company, The University Dancers, which excels because of her tireless devotion to dance, dancers and faculty colleagues.
Myra Delang was raised in Richmond and danced in the Ballet Impromptu under Marjorie Underhill. She was about 9 years old, and the company was Richmond's first public ballet troupe.
"Truth is, my mom came from a family of eight girls," she explains. "She couldn't afford dance lessons. The minute my sister and I could walk, my mom put us in dance classes. In every home movie, our arms and legs are moving."
Delang went on to study dance at the University of Maryland, and after returning to Richmond, she ran the Richmond Dance Center for a dozen years.
Between gigs in musical theater, including a role as a Kit Kat girl in Cabaret at Goochland County's Barn Dinner Theater, she was principal dancer with the Richmond Ballet (1976-1979). She was artistic director of the Ballet Contemporary (1978-79), and she co-founded the Virginia Dance Company (1980-83).
Then UR's head of health and sports science, Leonard McNeal, hired her to teach dance exercise as a physical-education class. "I felt like the Little Rascals," she says. "We danced all over that campus. You want to dance? Come dance with me!"
In 2010, Daleng's dance department graduated its first major.
After 25 years as artistic director of UR's University Dancers, a student performing ensemble, she turned over leadership to assistant director Anne Van Gelder in 2010.
At Daleng's 25th-anniversary event, 80 former dancers returned, and 17 performed. She claps her hands together at the memory: "All that energy. Those bright wonderful students who came back!"
This year, she's the artistic director of the Tucker-Boatwright Jazz Dance Festival program "Jazzed," which is to take place in February. The event will feature original choreography by Robert Battle, as well as work by Jessica Lang, Doug Varone and Jacqui Buglisi.
In January, Daleng is taking sophomores to Cuba to study its music and dance. She'd love to take another batch to Greece to learn about dance in ancient Greek theater, the topic of her graduate thesis.
"Pressure makes diamonds, and these kids sparkle," she says of her students. "They give their hearts and souls. They give everything to make the dance strong."
The selectors said: It may seem contradictory to recognize as an "emerging artist" someone who's made art for decades, but Eric Knight's work merits wider notoriety. His vision is that of a medieval contemplative bent over his illuminated manuscript, yet his approach is also shaped by the sensibilities of graphic novels and the cut-up aesthetic of punk rock. His signature pieces, both in collage and ink, are jewel-like miniatures that radiate light while exploring dark themes that take the viewer into another world.
Eric Knight skipped school to hang out in the library.
That was in Cohasset, Mass., where as an adolescent he grew out of teen literature and into adult reading. He read arts magazines and Psychology Today. The library introduced him to artists and illustrators from Albrecht Dürer to Max Ernst. During the mid-1970s, he attended the San Francisco Art Institute. "But I spent most of my time at Tower Records," he says.
Back in Boston, he met attorney John D. Merriam, who ultimately became the artist's patron. The lawyer's Beacon Hill house was filled with original works by Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham and Boris Artzybasheff. "He [Artzybasheff] did more than 100 Time magazine covers and portraits," Knight recalls of work that was hugely influential for him.
Knight knew two things: He wanted to make art his own way, and he had no desire to teach.
He gave his own schooling another chance at New York City's renowned Cooper Union, where he had received a scholarship. "All I had to do was buy supplies," he says. But then he learned that his entire second year would be spent on photography.
One of his teachers, painter Irving Petlin, told him, "You have to be happy. If you make the decision, don't regret it." Knight promptly left.
He moved in with his father and his mother, who was dying of cancer. At loose ends after her death, he went to Richmond to room with friend David Walsh, who had invited Knight, his two dogs and his cat to share his Church Hill residence. Knight arrived on July 10, 1999.
He hated it. He'd never been in the South. Monument Avenue confused him. Then he met graphic designer Lizette Gecel, fell in love and stayed.
Knight draws in India ink, using a single pen point and no preliminary sketches. He's used the same crow quill for 36 years. His astoundingly lush and detailed drawings are 8 by 11 inches and may take months, or years, to complete. He says the current "brilliant panoply" of comic book artists teach him as much as studying old masters.
He says he feels like an emerging artist, since it's taken him more than 30 years to perfect his craft.
"I'm just now getting into my best work," he says. He'll be in the upcoming Think Small exhibit, running from Oct. 28 to Dec. 18.
Applied Arts Susan Iverson | Photography Michael Lease | Fine Arts Tanja Softi
The selectors said: Although many artists hit a wall at some point in their working lives, Susan Iverson has always found and explored new depths. She produces textile works with passion and tenacity. The way she weaves wool and silk parallels her craft, teaching students. She has garnered many honors in her extensive career, notably having her work included in significant museum collections.
Susan Iverson jokes that she wanted to do two things in life: paint and ski. She couldn't afford both and thus chose art. Then one day, attending Colorado State University at Fort Collins, she walked by the weaving room on the way to the painting studio.
"It was love at first sight," she says. There, she was introduced to the basics. The daughter of an architect, Iverson grew up looking at the world in a structural way. "It was the composition within the grid, all horizontals and verticals, a combination of the organic and the architectural."
She earned her graduate degree from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where her teachers included weaver Adela Akers and painter David Peas. She moved to Richmond in 1975 to teach at Virginia Commonwealth University. She tells students frustrated by weaving's complexity that people in South America and Europe managed to make enduring works of art while raising sheep and alpacas. Some of these tapestries were buried for centuries and survived. "We don't have much of a textiles industry here since it's been exported," Iverson says. "But in countries where they do, people still weave the way the have for ages."
Weaving teaches both faith and patience. The work is physical, moving row by row with hands and mind fully engaged. The weaver must trust in both the work that's been done and the work that will emerge. The full effect cannot be judged until the piece comes off the loom.
"It may be three or four months of effort that ultimately may not look good," she says, laughing. "This has happened to me not infrequently. Keeps you humble. The trick with weaving is to test the idea pretty thoroughly. All that thinking allows you to progress ahead, so you're not behind all the time."
Her subjects have included her obsessions with Peruvian textiles, dreams, twins, the human figure and botanical shapes. Her work will be part of the group show "Think Small," at Artspace from Oct. 28 to Dec. 18, and the Interna-tional Fiber Biennial, at Philadelphia's Snyderman-Works Galleries from March through April of next year.
"I'm interested in the merging conversation between architecture and landscape," Iverson says. "This is the fantastic thing in Richmond, with the James River running through the middle of it."
The selectors said: Michael Lease's photography addresses the familiarity and accessibility of the snapshot with an enhanced awareness of the world. He is a community-focused artist who brings people together in a collective experience, as he did when he choreographed a performance event of onlookers gathering to admire the flight of chimney swifts. He sees things others do not and captures them for us.
Maybe the swifts wouldn't come.
That was Michael Lease's fear on a chilly, damp October 2010 evening when he brought people together to watch the birds circle and descend into their roost in a downtown chimney. He spoke for 10 minutes, then Mary Elfner of the Richmond Audubon Society talked about the birds while Lease accompanied her on the accordion. Jonathan Vassar and the Speckled Bird played to the swifts' arrival, and when the performance concluded, the last swift dropped into the chimney.
Lease, currently president of the 1708 Gallery explains, "I like this idea of trying to corral energy to think or feel in the same direction. It's participatory, social and doesn't create anything to clean up."
Lease is a collector of sensations, capturing fleeting experiences in photographs. "The thing I like about photographs is how people use them and the way they function in the world," he says.
His takes photos of disco balls, his wife, Kim, sleeping, as well as banana peels and combs he sees in the street. "I run the risk of never being able to get anywhere," Lease laughs.
He sends his photo series in booklets to people he knows. No letters, just envelopes in the mail.
He attended Colorado State, then Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., where he stayed to teach and run the school's photography department. He took students on field trips, introducing them to shop owners. "I was a quasi-ambassador, a liaison between students and city," Lease recalls.
Just when he sought to leave Frostburg for VCU, he discovered a new affection for the town through art. In 2002, along with friend Greg Auldridge, he directed students in creating Frostburg: Document 2002, a five-edition, handmade book of 72 black-and-white photographs. It was a photographic journey that weighed about 100 pounds. The intention is to create another book in 2012 — the city's bicentennial — for which citizens are now are submitting images of Frostburg from the past 50 years.
The book was a personal watershed for Lease, leading to later participatory projects, among them, Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On (to be exhibited at the Flippo Gallery of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, from Feb. 17 to March 30, 2012).
Lease asked 43 friends to send photos of themselves in high school, along with the views from the windows of their present-day homes and the last things they see at day's end. In the show, the images are arranged so that the high schoolers look toward the windows seen by their future selves.
The selectors said: More than a master printmaker, Tanja has a long history of building international connections between arts communities abroad and in Richmond; she has participated in numerous residencies around the world. Aside from the strength and success of her own work, she's an accomplished educator and mentor for young artists. In 2009, she received a VMFA Professional Fellowship and currently chairs the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Richmond.
Softic doesn't recall a time when she didn't draw. "I don't remember not making art, or not preferring to play in some make-believe way with images," she says. Her father was her first collector. He kept her childhood drawings, noting the date, her age and their conversations about them, before he deposited them in a drawer. The drawings, the drawer and their apartment disappeared during the 1990s Bosnian war that devastated Sarajevo.
Although most members of her father's family were in law or medicine, her grandfather, Ilija Grbic, was a poet, teacher and an opponent of nationalism. At that point, "the Chetniks [Serbian nationalists] handled the opposition in a very Night and Fog way," she says. Her grandfather disappeared, and her grandmother, who never gave up searching for him, found his body in 1969.
Much later, when Softic was in junior high school, she saw a Mark Rothko exhibit during a trip to the Tate Modern in London. "I was transported," she recalls. "After that show, art became something else for me. There was a mission involved."
She's a printmaker and a graphic artist, although her formal education is in painting. She came to the United States for graduate study at Old Dominion University, receiving direction from Ken Daley, the founder of its printmaking program. She was also influenced by New York City master printer Kathy Caraccio.
She came to the University of Richmond to build its printmaking program in 2000, while the One/Off group of 24 printmakers was working, "That was amazing," Softic says.
She regards Richmond as a haven where she's done some of her best work. "I do hope, of course, that my best work is yet to come," she says.
Here she created "kind of my first novel," the Migrant Universes series of large works on paper mounted on board, she says. Vivid images of star charts, diagrams of black holes, obsolete geographical maps, and anatomical and microscopic imagery create incomprehensible worlds in flux.
She's currently working on the tentatively titled Walking Home, etchings and photogravures of images from her recent visit to Sarajevo, where the old is diminished by new buildings, and landmarks are obliterated, creating a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience. Her memories of the city, and its present condition, are laid one on top of the other, not matching up.
Softic's present work concerns memory, cultural hybridity, perishing and becoming. "It's about the world that's very protean, changing constantly," she says. "What we're witnessing now doesn't fit neatly into the file folders of history."
Dance Ana Inés King and the Latin Ballet of Virginia | Theater Scott Wichmann
Ana Inés King and The Latin Ballet of Virginia
The selectors said: The Latin Ballet of Virginia, led by the irrepressible Ana Inés King, entertains and educates. Inés King's choreography, along with her collaboration in costume and set design, brings the unexpected to the classical idiom, resulting in a hybrid of traditional and contemporary dance that is transporting and accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Ana Inés King's Colombian family included poets, composers and musicians. Her mother, Dora Olarte de Barragan, was a noted dancer and choreographer. In Ana, the family's creative streak made art inevitable.
Inés King possessed a flair for design that led her to Colombia's Escuela Departamental de Bellas Artes, where she studied Latin American dance and classical ballet. Soon after, she complemented that with choreography and lighting study at Incolballet in Cali, Colombia.
She lived, danced and taught in several South American countries, performing flamenco in Andalucia, Spain. "I'm always studying," she says. "Recently in Cuba, I was learning more about Cuban and Caribbean dance, music and history."
She's a proponent of teaching traditional dance, concerned that it would disappear if not reinforced through formal instruction. If students were unable to pay for lessons, she accepted art in exchange.
In Colombia, she started a costume and dance clothes factory, designing apparel for children and teens, and later she created leather goods such as handbags, briefcases and wallets. It was Richmonder William King, of Rountree's Luggage, who brought her designs — and eventually her — to the United States.
"I met his family and fell in love with him, his family and Richmond, too!" she says.
At VCU she studied under Pollak honoree Chris Burnside, who ended up asking her to teach Latin dance and flamenco at the school. Back then, "very few knew anything about what salsa was," she says. "Flamenco was even less recognized at that time."
She choreographed Amoramerica to inaugurate the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, which served as her entrée in 1997 to begin teaching there. She started with 25 students and within a year had 100 pupils.
"Everything came as a surprise for me," she explains. "I was not planning to open a school. I wanted to dance always because it is my life."
Her youngest daughter, Melody Mutis, found adapting to a new city and country difficult, which inspired Inés King to begin a successful "ESL Through Dance" program, which visits more than 45 schools a year.
"My passion for dance and culture focuses on serving the community and making our world a better place to live," she says.
Her upcoming performances with the Latin Ballet include Macondo, an interpretation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude, running from Oct. 21 to 23, and the Día de los Muertos Family Festival, a Hispanic interpretation of Halloween, on Oct. 22.
The selectors said: Versatile, multi-talented, acclaimed entertainer Scott Wichmann is the sort of artist whose work would enrich any city, and we are fortunate to have him here. As an actor he commands any performance, from Shakespeare to musical comedy.
The number is 2,212. That's the total of Scott Wichmann's performances in The Enchanted Laboratory, a Busch Gardens children's show, in which he sang and acted alongside automated creatures for two seasons from 1997 to 1998.
As Northrup, the show's only human, he played six times a day for a half-hour. A sorcerer's apprentice, he demonstrated the power of imagination and belief in oneself. "Literally hundreds and hundreds of actors played Northrup, and I had the most fun of anybody in the history of that show," he says.
From Pittsfield, Mass., Wichmann and his family often moved, causing him to rely on humor to make friends. "I started acting up — or acting out — in sixth or seventh grade," he says. "A teacher told my mom I needed a creative outlet."
In Scranton, Pa., at the Lucan Center for the Performing Arts, he received theater instruction from Rita Julius, who helped lead him to his performance as Nick in A Thousand Clowns, directed by Academy Award-nominated actor and playwright Jason Miller. "That hooked me for life," Wichmann says.
Back in Pittsfield, a high school drama teacher, Ralph Hamman, offered a challenging program — from Greek tragedy to Ionesco. Wichmann played Don Quixote opposite Aldonza by film actor Elizabeth Banks. He says, "More than anybody else," that teacher is "responsible for me as an actor."
After moving on to Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., he graduated in 1995 from its musical theater program.
Following his stints at Busch Gardens, Wichmann joined a new generation of Richmond actors. Barksdale director Randy Strawderman cast him as Frank Sinatra in the 1999 premiere of Ella and Her Fella Frank. Director Rick St. Peter (a Busch Gardens alum) cast him in Danny Hoch's one-man show Jails, Hospitals and Hip Hop.
Wichmann has built a solid, varied career, including everything from American Family Fitness ads to multiple-role performances in I Am My Own Wife, at the Firehouse Theater, and It's A Wonderful Life, for Barksdale at Hanover Tavern.
His most unusual stint was off-stage, when in 2009 he signed up for a six-year term in the United States Naval Reserves in the interest, he says, of developing leadership skills. "The two worlds don't get much farther apart," he explains, "except in both cases, you have to show up in the correct costume and respond correctly."
He has almost left for larger markets several times. Thing is, he keeps working here.
He directed Lend Me a Tenor, currently at the Barksdale. Look for him in the just released film Lake Effects, starring Jane Seymour, set at Smith Mountain Lake; he's part of a group convinced there's a "Smithy" creature in the waters.
Instrumentalist Rex Richardson | Ensemble Samson Trinh & The Upper East Side Big Band
Samson Trinh & the Upper East Side Big Band
The selectors said: Under the guidance of Richmond native and human dynamo Samson Trinh, the Upper East Side Big Band pulls together a variety of musicians who combine jazz, rock and old standards into performances that end up surprising both the audience and the conductor. Samson's joy in creation is truly infectious.
Samson Trinh & the Upper East Side Big Band managed an unlikely event on a humid June night at Dogwood Dell: performing not only the Beatles' Abbey Road in its entirely but also reinventing music everybody thought they knew.
Trinh, the energetic organizer, is a Richmond native and a graduate of Atlee High School. He recalls at age 3 or 4 seeing Michael Jackson's "Bad" video. "I don't think we even had MTV then," he says. "But that video was the major influence for me to get into music and entertainment."
He picked up the guitar in second grade. He listened to Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and Elvis. His older brother played drums, and they performed together through high school.
Trinh admits to being slow to catch up with what's new. At age 7, he was into oldies rock, and in high school the big bands interested him. Sinatra, Mel Tormé and John Coltrane followed.
Merit scholarships took him to summer sessions at Berklee College of Music and VCU. There, Pollak honoree Doug Richards and the Great American Music Ensemble enlarged Trinh's idea of what a big band could be.
He studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music under Michael Abene. From 2003 to 2005, he co-owned and managed the Upper East Side Jazz Lounge, where a glittering array of musicians played. In his senior year at VCU, Trinh recorded the lush and retro-hip Very Strange Night; he had written all but one of its songs.
Trinh views his career as a series of happy accidents that have allowed him to play with and bring together talented performers. Among them are big-voiced keyboard player Adrian Duke and Allyson Mills, who grew up singing. (The Mills Family Band, with Allyson, brother Curtis and other Upper East Side members, including Trinh, is a jazz/American songbook offshoot.)
In the works is an Upper East Side holiday album. With a mix of standards and original work, "it should be epic," Trinh says. He's putting together a musical about Woody Allen, the film director whose affinity for jazz makes the subject not as distant as it may sound. "He's such a romantic, but there's also this great work ethic and his huge influence in the culture," Trinh says.
Trinh's longtime goal is to put the Upper East Side Big Band on the road. (Getting them places requires carpooling.) In recent years, they've received Virginia Commission for the Arts grants to perform outside of Richmond. He'd like to see the band go to Northern Virginia's Wolf Trap and far beyond. He's not yet 30, and there's a whole world of music out there.
The selectors said: Rex Richardson stands at the vanguard of jazz, classical and contemporary American music. He has four albums that span his career as a trumpeter since 1995. As his star has risen internationally, he's maintained a clear commitment to education though his position as associate professor of trumpet at VCU. He is an extraordinary musician.
Rex Richardson showed musical interest at about age 3, when he demanded a guitar that he promptly destroyed. "When I decided at age 14 that I wanted to play trumpet professionally, they thought I was insane," he says of his parents. "But they were amazingly helpful."
Richardson says he learned about 80 percent of what he knows by getting onstage and playing. In his formative years, he played at venues in and around Washington, D.C.
His major teachers were Dennis Edelbrock, of the Army Brass Quintet, and trumpeter Chris Gekker, who spent 18 years with the American Brass Quintet and served on the faculties of conservatories, such as the Juilliard School.
After a stint majoring in anthropology at Northwestern University, Richardson dropped out and thereafter performed music in various styles — jazz, classical and modern. He's played with many groups, notably jazz legend Joe Henderson's Quintet and Sextet and the chamber ensemble Rhythm & Brass.
Richardson's aim isn't "higher faster louder" virtuosity. "It's not that you execute the fast passage, but that you do it with sublime elegance and fluidity," he says. "You make it absolutely beautiful."
His longtime musical relationship with composer Jim Stephenson produced beautiful music. Stephenson heard Richardson play a solo concerto written for him by Dana Wilson (recorded for Richardson's recent Magnum Opus album). "Right after the performance, [Stephenson] ran up to me, gave me a big hug and said, ‘I gotta write a solo concerto for you!' " Richardson says.
The opportunity arose in 2009, when Richardson ran out of time to compose a piece for a summer 2010 Australian premiere. He remembered Stephenson's declaration.
"Man, was that the right phone call to make!" he exclaims. The result was Rextreme, a modern music concerto for trumpet and orchestra, which he's performed internationally seven times in the past year.
In 2002, Richardson began teaching at VCU's School of Music. He joined the Devil's Workshop Big Band (a past Pollak recipient). "Astonishing musicians, and I learned more from them than I can tell you," he says.
He's recording an album with saxophone luminary and VCU alum Steve Wilson, and look for a possible classical concert in November. Then he's gone — to China, Brazil and Italy.
Film Todd Raviotta | Words Joshua Poteat
The selectors said: You would be hard-pressed to find a local film that did not include thanks to Todd Raviotta in the credits. He is selfless in his encouragement of other filmmakers, including his students. Though best known for his narrative work, his talent ranges from experimental to commercial filmmaking. He has a unique sensibility that moves deftly from camera to post-production.
From Bourbon Street's raucousness to Gallery 5's Festival of Five Fires, Raviotta's progress as an artist is marked by his focused recognition of the communal and the celebratory.
Besides making many short films, Raviotta teaches a digital-video senior seminar and a film-studies course at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School. "When I hear my peers trash student lighting, I say, ‘This isn't a Hallmark card. It's real and it's honest.' That's why that work is so valuable to me."
Last summer, he conducted media camps for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The stories people tell are shared through the Internet and DVDs, although the number of viewers is small. That, he insists, isn't the fault of the art.
In Raviotta's native New Orleans, his teacher mother and his film-loving physician father encouraged his artistic inclinations. The city itself provided an ample education. His parents dressed up for galas, and the social culture of the city left an enduring impression.
The family moved to Northern Virginia in 1992 — a radical departure from New Orleans — but in high school he was introduced to Virginia Commonwealth University. He came to Richmond and embraced the cultural foment here and helped it grow.
He christened his creative work Natural Science Productions in 1998 while studying at VCU with filmmaker Joan Strommer, whom he praises, along with Pollak honorees David Williams and Robert Griffith, for teaching him that films are handmade objects.
Now Raviotta makes movies constantly, shooting with his cell phone or a camera, then knitting the images together.
"And people see it, whether it's a wedding or a band playing, and they'll say, ‘It looks like how it felt.' It's more than the capturing of the event. I want people to experience life, not watch commercials for things they can't buy and don't need."
He's served on the boards of both the Yellow House and the Virginia Production Alliance, working both out front and behind the scenes. Camera in hand, he's moved through Richmond's artistic underground, documenting the progress of public enjoyment and art. (You can see examples of his work online at Vimeo and RVA Magazine.)
He says, "It's good to have an impact, and I'll do whatever else I can to keep following that line."
The selectors said: Josh won the Poetry Society of America's National Chapbook Award and the Anhinga Press Poetry Prize in 2004. He's collaborated with designer Roberto Ventura on art installations, winning Best in Show for InLight 2009. His 2009 collection, Illustrating the Machine That Makes the World [From J. Heck's 1851 Pictorial Archive of Nature and Science] was published by the University of Georgia Press. Married to poet Allison Titus, he is working on a book of poems about Richmond.
The poet's family, history and inspiration in his own words:
The Dynamic Complexities of Sears, Santa and Poetry
"The first word that I read, out loud, was ‘Sears,' on the side of a firetruck I got for Christmas. It was supposed to be from Santa, not Sears, so my parents were somewhat dismayed. I was 2. And I was intrigued. Maybe that's where it started? With Sears? Besides that, probably Golden Books, then the Bible, then the song about puffins that my mother sang to me, then Mark Twain, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis."
The Gift of Knowing and Seeing
"I don't know of any poets [among my relatives], but my family on my father's side is chock full of writers, mostly theology and philosophy. My sister, aunt and cousin are currently pretty brilliant artists in many different media. And my father, a biologist/environmental scientist by trade and a Vietnam vet by draft, had the spirit, vision and low serotonin level to be a poet. He respected the natural world, knew the names for every flora and fauna in the Southeast while simultaneously seeing the beauty in them. That's the key, I think. There's knowing and there's seeing, but to have both is a gift."
"Writing became fun when I first started writing lyrics for the assorted punk bands I played drums for in high school/college/post-college. While in undergrad, I had several great teachers who encouraged me, and it seemed to be the only thing I could do semi well. So I became an English major."
"It was Larry's poems that saved me as a poet. His poems brought me to Richmond to study with him [at Virginia Commonwealth University], then years later, his body of work brought me out of a deep, self-dug rut. After his death, all I had were his poems, and they did all the work."
Even the Ghosts Have Ghosts
"Richmond is made for writers. Besides the lower cost of living, the ratio of ruin versus new fits my sensibilities perfectly. The city is a palimpsest, constantly being erased and rewritten, erased and rewritten. Even the ghosts have ghosts haunting them. Even the graffiti has graffiti. Even slave cemeteries that became parking lots can become cemeteries again. The thing about Richmond is you have to honor its myriad histories, no matter how horrifying and sad, or they will turn on you."
Special thanks to the following for allowing us to shoot on location: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Moshi Moshi and the Children's Museum of Richmond.