Marc “Cheats” Cheatham (center) with WRIR radio host and local musician Mike Kemetic (left) and photographer P. J. Sykes Photo courtsey Marc Cheatham
Marc "Cheats" Cheatham has the kind of personality that brings disparate groups together, even on a stormy, muggy Sunday.
The 33-year-old Cheatham, who started The Cheats Movement in 2010 as a personal photography blog, put out the bat signal on Facebook that he wanted to get a group photo of friends of the site, which has since expanded to local arts and music coverage. At his request, more than 40 people — rappers, improv comics, bloggers and a couple of small children — gathered on Brown's Island.
If you're already involved in the arts locally (at the magazine, this is nearly automatic, since we receive notice of exhibits, concerts and performances), what Cheatham is doing may not seem terribly revolutionary. But his site is different in a couple of ways: It shows no favoritism toward certain types of entertainment, and the editorial voice is inclusive and enthusiastic.
Last summer, Cheatham was hired to photograph a concert by local rappers Black Liquid and Paul Pace. The site got 200 hits, and "I was in heaven," Cheatham says. He started shooting pictures and videos of more events, from Richmond Comedy Coalition shows to indie rockers Canary Oh Canary at a WRIR fundraiser.
"They were all doing amazing things, but they weren't getting a lot of press recognition," he says. "I really decided in June of '11 to shine a light on what people were doing."
The Cheats Movement's audience began to grow with its expanded focus, and Cheatham started writing for RVA Magazine and the website RVA News. I stumbled on his site this past spring when looking for pictures of the G40 mural event, and I began visiting regularly to keep up with Richmond's cultural happenings.
"The blog is as diverse as the city," Cheatham says. And that's something a lot of us get intellectually, but even Richmond natives have to work to see the diversity. Cheatham grew up in Glen Allen, but he didn't see what the city really had to offer until he went to VCU after two terms in the Marines. Despite Cheatham's friendliness and ease in crowds, he didn't always feel connected to his surroundings, but here in Richmond — surrounded by artists — he says, "This blog and being part of this family is where I fit in."