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Showing the love at the RVA Street Art Festival
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The University of Richmond and the Valentine Richmond History Center collaborated on burning these images into the Cary Street wall. This one shows two ladies and an infant on the Forest Hill Park trolley.
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The festival co-organizers, artist Ed Trask andCouncilman Jon Baliles
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Artwork by Suzanne Whittier
This past weekend, I spent almost two days in a dark room under a staircase. And I loved it. I was but one of scores of participants in theSecond Annual RVA Street Art Festival that undertook as its site the abandoned GRTC garages and administration buildings.
The autumnal weather and the chance to wander around the 5-acre collecton of century-plus-old buildings drew thousands. The space was large enough so that the crowds didn’t really get too pushy feeling. A wonderful event splashed across the brick walls at Davis and Cary. This is one of those events, like the upcoming Richond Folk Festival, where you run into people you’ve not seen in a while, get into conversations with people you’ve not met before and could sit and watch the whole kaleidoscopic variety roll by.
Me, I was intrigued by late 19th and early 20th century photos along the wall of West Cary Street that are blown up to epic proportions and emblazoned into the brick. This is part of a collaboration between art students of the University of Richmond and the Valentine Richmond History Center.One by the South Davis Avenue entrance shows the yards in 1911. I regaled to passersby that in the far side of the photo, almost indiscernible, is the Horse Show Building that was refitted to host bicycle races as a “velodrome." I found out about this place from Michael Houff's Riding Richmond's Wheel, a two-wheeled history of the city. The velodrome complemented the short-lived Idlewood Amusement Park (1902-1907), with its bowling alleys, swimming pools, carousel, casino, skating rink and performance spaces, about where the present condominiums face Byrd Park Lake. A fire burned the zest out of the park, but didn’t damage the velodrome, which continued holding extremely dangerous indoor motorcycle races.
Thus the RVA Street Art Festival revived that sense of fun, not too distant from now-vanished venues once dedicated to such activity. And while bicycles were in abundance, so were skateboards, which made use of the half-pipe built on site.
Besides the dozens of fanciful murals and wall paintings was the quiet and profound exhibit “Driving Richmond: Stories and Portraits of GRTC Bus Drivers,” a photography, oral history and sound collaboration among Laura Browder, Michael Leaseand Benjamin Thorp. The exhibition occupied one of the garages first built for the streetcars — the tracks still run into it.
I didn’t get out as much into the festival doings as everyone else because I was playing live narrator to a four-minute clip of “Richmond (had) Rails,” a documentary that filmmaker Patrick Gregory and I are making about the Richmond electric streetcar system, (1888-1949).
Seeing the hundreds of people threading their way through the vast buildings was a great pleasure. I spoke with the weary co-organizers, Councilman Jon Baliles and artist Ed Trask, late on Sunday about how many people they think may have come through. It was tough to estimate — it was a free event — but maybe anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 from the time the festival started on Wednesday.Paint the walls, and they will come. Especially if there are food trucks and good beers on tap.Arrangements are being made to open the property so that those who missed the festivities can still go see the art. Stay tuned, as they say.