Clockwise from left: Edward DuBois Ragan, Simon Sibelman, Maureen Elgersman Lee, Alison Dubsky and Aimee Joyaux. Chris Smith photo
Director of Education at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond
"The larger mission [is] helping the community engage in the creative process," says Aimee Joyaux, who began working as the Visual Arts Center of Richmond's director of education in January. Her own creativity is being stretched as she oversees new classes, adding shorter and more affordable courses in every studio area. Joyaux, who commutes from her home in Petersburg, isn't just a teacher — she's also an artist, and she finds the Visual Arts Center an inspiring playground: "It is like a big toy store."
Don't Miss: "Inspiring the Muse," a creativity workshop on Oct. 3, explores the fields of writing and drawing. $75 to $90. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 353-0094 or visarts.org.
Richmond Ballet Company Member
The secret to a great performance for Alison Dubsky? A turkey sandwich from Subway. "That is my power food before a show," confesses the 5-foot-5 dancer, the newest member of Richmond Ballet's 24-dancer company. The 28-year-old comes to Richmond from the Sarasota Ballet in Florida, where she danced for five years and became a soloist — but she's been dancing since age 3, when she took her first lessons from her mother, who runs a ballet theater near Dubsky's hometown of Geneva, Ohio. Dubsky describes the ensemble-company structure and atmosphere at Richmond Ballet as more supportive than she has seen elsewhere: "The dancers get along well and support one another, and that's rare in this field."
Don't Miss: Richmond Ballet's New Works Festival, Sept. 29 through Oct. 4., features pieces by four new local and national choreographers at the ballet's Studio Theatre. $30. 344-0906, ext. 224, or rich mondballet.com.
Maureen Elgersman Lee
Executive Director of The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
Before taking on her latest post as the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia's new executive director, Maureen Elgersman Lee spent 15 years as a university professor and published two books on African-American history. "My overarching interest is in the history of the average person," she says. Lee became executive director in January and will oversee the second phase of the Virginia Freedmen's Bureau project, which offers searchable online records for descendants of emancipated slaves, freed blacks and African-American Union soldiers.
Don't Miss: "Labors of Love, Labors of Sorrow: Quilting Traditions for a New Time," runs until Jan. 22 and uses about 30 quilts to tell the story of African-American domestic pursuits in the 20th century. $3 to $5, ages 12 and under free. 780-9093 or blackhistorymuseum.org.
Assistant Director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum
A Richmond native, Simon Sibelman left a teaching job at St. Christopher's School for London in 1982 to earn a doctorate in French. While there, he helped co-found the Holocaust Resource Center at the London Jewish Cultural Center, providing hands-on educator training for about 600 British teachers to date. Sibelman, 61, starts this month as the assistant director for the Virginia Holocaust Museum, overseeing the museum's educational and cultural programming, including its Teacher Education Institute. This summer, about 70 educators learned how to teach about the Holocaust and genocide.
Don't Miss: The film Kristallnacht & Beyond, premiering Nov. 9, follows the story of Holocaust survivor Alex Lebenstein, now living in Richmond. Lebenstein will attend and sign copies of his book, The Gazebo, following the film. 7 p.m. Free. 257-5400 or va-holocaust.com.
Edward DuBois Ragan
Staff Historian at the Valentine Richmond History Center
When he was hired in March as the Valentine's historian, Edward "Ed" DuBois Ragan faced a new challenge — using as little text as possible in exhibits. "You want to let the items tell the story," he says, adding with a laugh, "I am still trying to figure this one out." Ragan is also project manager for the Valentine's renovation (scheduled to begin in 2011), including the installation of The Richmond History Gallery, which will feature a permanent exhibition exploring untouched aspects
of Richmond history.
Don't Miss: "Waste Not, Want Not: The Great Depression in Richmond, 1929-1941," opens on Oct. 29. $7 to $8. 649-0711 or richmondhistorycenter.com.
President of the Virginia Center for Architecture
Flipping through the National Trust for Historic Preservation's magazine more than 13 years ago, Ginger Bower caught her first glimpse of Richmond architecture. She soon made a road trip to visit and fell in love with the Fan, where she lives today. â€¨"It is great to have your passion be what you do," says Bower, a Washington, D.C., native who was hired in May as the president of the Virginia Center for Architecture. She has already completed a membership-program overhaul, adding five membership levels with benefits at additional museums, and she's administrating a variety of new education and exhibit programs.
From left: Ginger Bower, Kathryn Alferio and Mark Broomfield
Don't Miss: "The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design" runs from Sept. 10 through Nov. 29, featuring 20 international houses and interactive displays demonstrating cutting-edge "green" technology. $2, free on Tuesdays. 644-3061 or virginiaarchitecture.org.
President of The Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen
In 1987, while attending the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver, Kathryn "K" Alferio's passion for the arts was revived. "Their mission was to bring art out of the museums and the galleries and put it out â€¨on the street," Alferio says. "That struck â€¨a chord in me." She relocated here in 2000 â€¨to become executive director of City Celebrations and pioneered the National Folk Festival's stay to Richmond. Currently, Alferio, 54, is the new president of The Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen, which opened â€¨a new performance space, 2nd Stage, in July. A culinary-arts program is scheduled to begin by 2010, and Alferio aims to raise the regional profile of her "diamond in the rough."
Don't Miss: The Spencers, just named International Magicians of the Year, will perform on Jan. 16. 2 and 7 p.m. $12.50 to $30. 261-ARTS or artsglenallen.com.
Assistant Professor in the University of Richmond's Theatre and Dance Department
After more than 20 years in dance, this semester Mark Broomfield joins the Theatre and Dance Department faculty at the University of Richmond. Broomfield, 39, traces his beginnings to living-room performances in his youth. "I view those years dancing with my friends in the living room as training," he says. As for formal instruction, Broomfield, who's working toward a doctorate, holds a Master of Fine Art in dance from the University of Michigan and has performed professionally with four companies. This fall, he will teach advanced jazz at UR, and he's passionate about influencing male dancers. "I think men should step forward and participate in ways that can only balance out the ratio some more," he says.
Don't Miss: The African Company Presents Richard III, running Nov. 19-21, is based on the true story of America's first black theater company and its struggles in New York. $6 to $15. Alice Jepson Theatre at UR's Modlin Center for the Arts. 289-8980 or modlin.richmond.edu.
The Carpenter Center, now dubbed CenterStage, celebrates its grand opening this month
If entering the Carpenter Theatre on Sept. 12 brings on some nostalgia — then the Richmond CenterStage staff has succeeded, says Jay Smith, â€¨director of community relations. Beginning with the replica of the original 1928 marquee, the restoration staff has worked for five years to preserve the 81-year-old facility and its history, while upgrading to the comforts of a modern-day theater. Then there's the new 119,000-square-foot Dorothy Pauley Square wing, which houses Rhythm Hall, a multipurpose venue with vaulted ceilings that also includes space that can be sectioned off for the Showcase Gallery; the 200-seat Gottwald Playhouse, permanent home for Richmond Shakespeare; and the Genworth BrightLights Education Center, designed to offer arts classes for grades K through 12.
Don't Miss: The countdown clock will strike the official grand opening of CenterStage at 4:32 p.m. on Sept. 12, followed by at-your-own-pace tours of the 179,000-square-foot venue. Then, at 8 p.m., nine local groups — from the African American Repertory Theatre to the Richmond Symphony — take the Carpenter Theatre stage to perform mini-shows. Tickets range from $35 to $100. 327-5755 or richmondcenterstage.com.
Dogtown Dance Theatre
Ground Zero Dance Company's permanent home in Manchester aims to launch in January 2010
At the corner of 15th and Bainbridge streets in historic Manchester sits the 1936 Bainbridge Junior High School Gymnasium — a three-story building with space illuminated by 12-foot arched windows set in walls of burnt-yellow brick. For Rob â€¨Petres and his wife, Lea Marshall, the venue offered a chance to fulfill their vision of a permanent location for their Ground Zero Dance Company, founded in 2000. Marshall says the historic renovations of the 4,600-foot, two-story gymnasium will be complete in January 2010. â€¨"I characterize this that if CenterStage is Broadway, we are off-Broadway," Marshall says with a laugh. The best aspect of Dogtown, apart from its nostalgic feel, says Petres, is its flexible seating arrangements, accommodating everything from a runway setup to more-traditional audience seating, holding up to 100.
Don't Miss: Ground Zero Dance plans 10 days of performances for its grand- opening celebration, Jan. 21 to 30, including a re-stage of some of Ground Zero's most acclaimed acts, as well as premieres of work by New York's Karl Anderson and Maria Bauman, Richmond's own Starr Foster, and others. groundzerodance.org.
Schindler Satellite Gallery
One of the city's newest art projects opens for First Fridays and by appointment only
Richmond architect Walter Parks found his ultimate art playground a year and a half ago, when he and his business partner, Sid DelCardayre, adopted a 1,800-square-foot downtown furniture showroom. "I think it makes a perfect art gallery," Parks says excitedly. He designed and then contracted renovations, adding an office and restoring a staircase to the mezzanine that takes advantage of the gallery's 17-foot ceilings. The best element, says Kirsten Gray, the gallery's curator and the owner of its parent, Eric Schindler Gallery, is the museum-like feel and the chandeliers made from recycled bike wheels.
Don't Miss: More than 20 paintings by one of Richmond's own will be on display in "A Small Retrospective of Work by Thomas Van Auken," opening on Sept. 4 and running through Sept. 27. For more information, contact Gray at 644-5005.
The Wilton Companies Gallery
The artistic side of University of Richmond Downtown
In March, when the University of Richmond Downtown turned the corner of Seventh and Broad streets into a center for civic programs — art had a role in the planning. A renovation team stormed what was formerly the lobby of the Franklin Federal Savings & Loan, restoring the 5,000-square-foot space — including the original vault — to its glory days of the '50s. What became the largest room, The Wilton Companies Gallery, now features artwork hanging under professional lights on bright-white walls. "It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase a variety of art that can educate and connect the University of Richmond to our larger metropolitan community," says Amy Howard, executive director for the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, which has a branch at â€¨UR Downtown. The art will be seen by â€¨a variety of groups, she adds, as the space is open for meetings by reservation. Each semester, the exhibit will rotate to a new topic, and a public forum will be held, discussing the subject the art portrays.
Another art highlight at UR Downtown is the nation's best-preserved Hans E. Gassman mural, a 1956 sgraffito-style wall painting featuring elements from the city.
Don't Miss: On Oct. 29, UR Downtown hosts a reception and panel discussion inspired by its current exhibit "Through Different Eyes: the Faces of Poverty in Virginia," featuring Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Marilyn Tavenner and others. Free. 6 to 7:30 p.m. 955-4010 or downtown.richmond.edu.
Robinson Theater Community Arts Center
A 1930s movie house finds new life
If you stop under the Robinson Theater's dazzling replica marquee at 2903 Q St. and look down — you will just be able to make out the signature and partial footprint of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. A native Richmonder, the tap-dancing legend attended the 1937 dedication of the Robinson Theater — which reopened on Feb. 21 as the Robinson Theater Community Arts Center. "It was really the hub of [Richmond's] African-American community in the 1930s," says Mitch Bennett, a partner in the Robinson Theater's current incarnation. The Church Hill movie theater later became a nightclub, which closed in 1987. But under its new nonprofit status, the 6,000-square-foot, multipurpose space featuring restored art-deco architecture has a different purpose. The goal, says executive director Betsy Hart, is to be a center for the community, with quarterly talent shows, local performances, performing-arts classes and even two church services on Sundays. "We are not trying to re-create the wheel but influence and be there for the community," Hart says.
Don't Miss: "Showtime at the Robinson," on Dec. 11, is an open invitation for locals to showcase their talent, with audience selection of a winner who will take home a $50 cash prize. 7:30 p.m. Free for participants; $3 for audience members. 562-9133 or robinsontheater.org .
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Its renovation will be complete in May 2010
Five thousand pieces of art, a 27-ton marble pavilion that was imported from India, a 50 percent increase in the size of each permanent-â€¨collection gallery, a 143,500-volume library and 2,500 new pieces of art are just a few of the improvements that will be on display when the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts holds its post-renovation reopening on May 1. "What VMFA intends to do is meet each individual's desire for relevant art," says Suzanne Hall, the museum's chief communications officer. "It could be wandering in the Chinese galleries or sitting and contemplating the Indian pavilion, drinking cappuccino in the Best Café or surfing the Internet in the Robins Sculpture Garden." The centerpiece of the museum's extensive five-year renovation is the pristine McGlothlin Wing, which strategically joins the five VMFA buildings to create a streamlined no-dead-end experience for viewers, who can now explore the VMFA's art collection chronologically and by theme. One of the most visually interesting features of the new wing is a 40-foot window facing the Boulevard that makes the art visible from the street.
Don't Miss: Approximately 170 examples of Louis Comfort Tiffany's masterful works in glass and other materials can be seen in the traveling exhibit "Tiffany: Color and Light." The pieces will be displayed from May 28 through Aug. 15 at VMFA, the only location in the nation to feature this work. $15 admission; VMFA members are free. 340-1400 or vmfa.museum.
A facelift helps Jackson Ward gallery maximize its space
In an effort to render Gallery5 more accessible to the public while also making better use of its space, the Jackson Ward gallery now offers two newly renovated art and community spaces. The Lucent Phoenix Resource Center, previously used as storage, has been redone to include a small but growing library where patrons can check out donated and purchased books on topics ranging from art to politics to religion, as well as a community room showcasing socially conscious artwork and public-art projects. Gallery5's gift shop, GallowLily's, gets unveiled in its new form on Sept. 4 — while it's still a gift shop, the space will now hold monthly exhibitions featuring the work of craft-based artists such as Phil Barbato, whose plush dolls are being shown this September. "GallowLily's is a fine arts meets crafts space," says Amanda Robinson, the gallery's executive director. —Erin Louise Kelley
Don't Miss: The exhibit premiering during September's First Fridays, "When Dinos Ruled RVA," involves a scavenger hunt with ceramic dinosaur bones placed around the city. 644-0005 or gallery5arts.org.
The Flats Factory
State-of-the-art studio space in early 2010
Richmond is a breeding ground for great artists, says longtime arts supporter Tom Papa — but then the aspiring artists leave. Papa has a plan to change that: The Flats Factory. Papa, together with his Fountainhead Development business partners Rick Gregory and Vik Murthy, purchased 12 acres in northeast Manchester and is transforming a 1920 Richmond Stove Works facility into a 25,000-square-foot haven for art, with plans for individual spaces for work in sculpture, printmaking, glass, woodwork and audio recording. Papa says negotiations are currently under way with a local art foundation to supply top-notch equipment and then allow graduates and artists to use the facility for a reasonable fee, or in some cases pro bono. In addition, more than 100 apartments will be available for rent within the entire complex, dubbed The New Manchester Flats. Papa adds that an additional 41 apartments will be available to disabled Richmonders at an affordable rate. "It's sort of a social experiment," Papa says, adding that he hopes The Flats Factory will be open in January. "The arts always lead the way in a community."
Don't Miss: In November, Plant Zero will host an event to celebrate The New Manchester Flats. Murthy says the event will include a reception and local entertainment. 344-8100 or fountainheaddevelopment.com.
Richmond Triangle Players
A new space in Scott's Addition
When even your biggest fans tell you they hate the seats, maybe it's time for a set change. So, after 15 fun but cramped years at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre, LGBT theater company Richmond Triangle Players is moving its shows to a renovated radiator shop on Altamont Avenue, where it will reopen on Oct. 7. The new space, a transformed 4,000-square-foot longish rectangle, will open with a bar, roomier seating (plus cabaret-style tables), new lighting and sound, and room for backstage storage and a dressing room. Despite the improvements, the players say they will miss the old space. "It's like leaving your first apartment," says managing director Philip Crosby. "No matter how much you want to buy your first home, it's not the easiest thing to pack up and leave." —Eileen Graham
Don't Miss: Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, running from May 5 to 29, focuses on a baseball team with a player who admits he is gay. Crosby wants to make the story as real as possible by having working showers onstage. And beyond that, "six or seven of [the actors] have to look like convincing baseball players," Crosby says with a laugh. 346-8113 or richmondtriangle players.com.
The Hat Factory
A second chance for a Canal Walk club
This month, live music will return to the space formerly known as Toad's Place — now dubbed The Hat Factory, a nod to the building's historic name, The Lady Byrd Hat Factory. "I grew up in Richmond … and as soon as I was old enough to drive, I was always going to Shockoe Slip," says Ben Wingrove, a partner in The Lady Byrd Hat Factory LLC, which oversees The Hat Factory, and vice-president of sales at international ticket company Etix, which will handle its online ticket sales. The venue will also include a restaurant. Wingrove expects a challenging road ahead, but he's confident in his partners, who already run the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, N.C. "This is definitely not their first rodeo."
Don't Miss: The BoDeans launch The Hat Factory with a Sept. 11 show. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. hatfactoryva.com.