(Photo by: Brooke Marsh)
The RVA Street Art Festival, which descends on odd corners of the city to bring activity, life and art, returns April 22 to 24, after a break of more than two years, this time at the former Southern States Cooperative silo complex at the south end of the Mayo Bridge.
Similar to past events at the former GRTC Transit System bus barns and the old hydropower plant on South 12th Street, artists from around the country and globe will make their marks on a Richmond landmark. The Southern States silos, owned today by a triumvirate of developers, are among the city’s notable architectural features recognizable to interstate travelers.
“These are iconic structures,” says City Council member and RVA Street Art co-organizer Jon Baliles. “We want to retain the look of the silos while also making them more distinctive.”
A gravel road winds past the silos toward Ancarrow’s Landing and the Richmond Slave Trail. Here, too, the floodwall turns into an earthen berm along the disused and forgotten Manchester Canal. This section is to undergo an extensive volunteer-driven cleanup. Baliles explains, “We’re raising money for art education, but also bringing people into parts of town that maybe they’ve not really explored.”
“That’s the goal of everything we do,” agrees artist Ed Trask. He’s directing the creative logistics that involve the placement throughout Manchester of work by 30 artists. Participants also include printmaking workshop Studio Two Three, All The Saints Theater Co., and the Bizarre Market’s crafts. North Side Richmond native and civil rights-era photographer LeRoy W. Henderson selected pictures to receive expanded treatment along portions of the silo’s corrugated metal.
Curator Vaughn Whitney Garland is organizing installations to address the complicated history that accompanies the landscape near the floodwall. Contributors include Baltimore-based art professor Lynn Cazabon who, in cooperation with Tricycle Gardens, is assessing the native plants of the community and blowing them up into images; she'll give a talk and tour. Richmond artist Tom Burkett, whose work involves environmental sciences, is transforming a tiny brick building into a study center. Environmental artists Jeff Schmuki and Wendy DesChene, who together are PlantBot Art Lab, are creating their own version of genetically altered plants.
For the past two years, Garland has undertaken a study of the Slave Trail. Throughout the festival, he’ll record people’s impressions about the trail, “and anything else about living here and what that means to them,” he says, “because one way or another, all these subjects are interconnected." Visit the RVA Street Art Festival Facebook page for more information.