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Empire gets the sum. +5
The city's oldest active performing arts facility, the Empire Theater, gets a sweet 100th birthday gift when philanthropists Sara Belle and Neil November donate $2 million to owners Theatre IV/Barksdale to help with capital improvements and an endowment. The Empire building feigns nonchalance at the news conference announcing the gift, having gone Hollywood by impersonating Grover's Theater in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln movie.
We get occupied. +5
There are two types of political protests: Those that fail to capture the public's awareness and those that succeed. Count Occupy Richmond among the latter.
In October protestors barge en masse into Kanawha Plaza "in solidarity" with the Occupy Wall Street protests, which had gained national attention the month before. Protestors eat, sleep and do everything else while living in the downtown park. They hold rallies and teach-ins to help explain to a somewhat bewildered Richmond who they are and what they want.
It isn't an easy sell. They want, well, a lot of things, most of them related to the worsening gap between the rich and poor. And the water gets murkier when protestors begin a pissing match with City Hall about enforcement of city ordinances that bar camping in public parks. But there's a reason they and the rest of the occupiers protesting in cities across the country have taken over public spaces. It's to start a conversation.
The occupiers get 15 days of it before being kicked out during an early morning raid by police. Lucky for them they've gained a fan in the Richmond Free Press' publisher and editor, Ray Boone. At times a vociferous critic of Mayor Dwight Jones, Boone invites the protestors to camp out in his yard in November. On a drizzly night in November they take him up on the offer. Boone, it should be noted, is the mayor's next-door-neighbor. And the mayor is not pleased. (See: Mayor).
Boone's front yard empties out weeks later. A spokesman for the occupiers says the demonstration had "run its course." Question is, Has Occupy Richmond done the same? In the last days, there were between 10 to 20 occupiers living at the encampment full-time. There were at times more than 60 living at Kanawha Plaza.
The occupiers say they aren't going away. We await phase two, promised for January. Whatever the case, Richmond seems to be paying attention.
Gene Cox moves on. -4
Grumpily witty, observationally wry, seasoned — overseasoned, perhaps — NBC-12's Gene Cox retires after 33 years at the anchor desk, continuing with some special reports, books, tweeting, the occasional appearance. Who could possibly follow as the next Gene Cox? After plugging in various criteria and other local anchor attributes into sophisticated computer models, we just ended up with a number we couldn't understand, like pi. A few conclusions: Juan Conde gets points for some gray, but he's just too smooth. Ryan Nobles is more like Gene's sporty grandson. Greg McQuade's too smiley. Morgan Dean's too Morgany. Bill Fitzgerald who? If only Bill Bevins had time.
A district meant to help downtown arts groups splinters them instead. -8
It would appear to be as easy as placing a canvas on an easel: Designate an official arts district to help the galleries that make up the First Fridays Art Walk, spurring economic development downtown, an idea made possible by new General Assembly laws. Instead, the city's economic-development team comes up with a sprawling arts district proposal that seems to disregard input from the actual stakeholders — the arts groups — and is so large and open-ended (going w-a-a-a-y beyond Broad Street) that many of the desired benefits of a special district (better lighting, code easements, tax breaks) are rendered moot.
Nevertheless, some Broad Street gallery owners and cultural administrators jump at the city's plan, mainly because it does no harm (something you can't say about many of the city's downtown proposals or past arts patronage); one notable supporter praises it with faint damning, saying that "it's better than nothing." Meanwhile, Christina Newton — whose nonprofit, Curated Culture, oversees the Art Walk — supports a smaller, more dynamic plan concocted by Councilman Charles Samuels, who eventually withdraws his proposal in order to study the situation further.
The skirmish over these two competing visions — exacerbated by summertime incidents involving rowdy teenagers at the event — eventually creates a schism among the Broad Street galleries. Several defect from officially participating in the monthly event, saying that they'd rather have business leaders run First Fridays instead of Newton, the founder. Presumably, these would be the same kind of wise, arts-first business leaders who have made the struggling, money-hemorrhaging CenterStage such an inclusive and popular success story.
When the paint dries, Richmond can claim no special arts district and Curated Culture's grass-roots art walk, which was collectively named Style Weekly's 2009 Richmonder of the Year, is in danger of imploding. Proving that the marriage between Richmond's dynamic arts community and its city government can be as messy and divorced from reality as anything Jackson Pollock ever dribbled.
We love getting together, especially when wristbands are involved. +7
Festival-it-is (Noun) 1. The overwhelming urge to attend one-day or multiday festivals that feature music, food or any number of shared regional obsessions. 2. An affliction that seems to provoke Richmond area residents into gathering up backpacks, foldout chairs and binoculars, and heading out to an event that is often free. 3. A most pleasant disease that causes more than 200,000 people to attend the Richmond Folk Festival, despite that most will be unfamiliar with the entertainment offerings on display. 4. An annual overtaking of the senses that causes unusual gatherings such as Best Friends Day to happen and to mark 10 years of exuberant alternative outdoor entertainment. 5. A semi-regular occurrence precipitated and fueled by a community's shared love for pigs, ethnic food, riverfront worship, the environment, Second Street and the like. 5. One of the best conditions that Richmond has contracted in recent years, totally superior to noise-ordinance fever. 6. A nice way for all of us to encounter and deal with each other, cool beverages in hand and with babies in slings. 7. A potent virus with no cure in sight and that's totally OK. No, really. Physicians don't need to be bothered on this one.
The Times-Dispatch publisher never grows listless. +2
From "50 Reasons to Celebrate the Richmond Reason" to "A Forward-Looking Richmond Region: 50 Ways to Get There," Richmond Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri discovers the simple beauty — not to mention the didactic value — of lists. Enlisting what must be an enthusiastic, if not beaten-down, graphic designer, Silvestri beseeches us all, in full-page, font-filled editorials, to be grateful for such local treasures as "bricks, bricks and more bricks" and shift our paradigms to embrace such forward-thinking ideals as "multicolors" and "looking ahead." And so we submit our own list as a show of support. Because true problem-solving indeed can begin with lists. With words. With ideas. With the use of Microsoft Word's built-in thesaurus. As Silvestri writes: "They're not meant to inflame. But rather, to inspire."
93 Powerful Ideas for Today and Tomorrow
Arby's Dipping Sauce
Sheriff C.T. Woody
My Grandmother's Pie Recipe
RVA, RVA and More RVA
The Pussycat Dolls
Historic Tax Credit Abuse
Richard "Dick" Holder
Regional Cooperation Fantasy
Ballpark Boxing Bullies
High Meals Tax
Overbearing Neighborhood Associations
Crippling Admissions Tax
Williams and Mullen
Out of town consultants
Clueless Council People
Minimum Wage Servants
Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen (and other valued advertisers)
Retirees sitting on boards
Still more damn studies
Whiny Gallery Owners
Top down leadership
Dearth of Goth Kids
Small Dogs that go "Yip, Yip"
Art kids carrying cardboard portfolios
Open air shopping
War on Youth
Never-Ending Arts Districts
No, seriously, Whisper or Face Charges
You are Whispering too Loud.
Creative Denver People
Bosnia (ask Bill Pantele)
Free Festivals that will probably disappear because Cheap Ass Patrons Can't Even Donate a Buck or Two to Keep Then Going.
Pimento Cheese Documentaries
Did we mention the studies?