24 Arts Legends 


Making the city livable is one thing -- making it somewhere worth living is something else again. These are some of the people who have been dedicated to the cause of culture, of producing a city that has something to say.

1. Beverly Reynolds

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Reynolds Gallery has consistently brought high art to Main Street, raising the level of aesthetic consumption through the works of artists such as photographer Sally Mann and painter Jasper Johns, as well as local artists such as VCU's Richard Roth and Heide Trepanier.

2. John Braymer

He led the charge to open the Virginia Center for Architecture at the Brance House and serves as president and chief executive. Braymer has pushed our awareness of and appreciation for architecture both in the city and in the state, as executive vice president of the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.

3. Stoner Winslett

She took the Richmond Ballet from a small school operation to the officially recognized state ballet of Virginia that now regularly performs in New York City. She's one of only four female artistic directors of a ballet company in the country.

4. and 5. Bruce Miller and Phil Whiteway

They founded nonprofit adult and children's theater company Theatre IV, which has become the largest professional theater in the state, and one of the largest children's theater companies in the nation, producing entertaining plays but also doing outreach work. The duo also took over leadership of Barksdale Theatre in 2001, expanding to two theaters when the company moved into Hanover Tavern in 2006.

6. Joe Seipel

The man who declared the unthinkable: that VCU have a sculpture program to rival the best work coming out of New York or any of those other fancy places. Seipel's own work, from "prefabricated cracks" to a gully plug that he built a fake company around, are characteristic of the program's goal to reshape conceptions about sculpture and be playful whenever possible.

7. Janine Bell

She's the founder of the Elegba Folklore Society, whose annual events (the Capital City Kwanzaa Festival, Down Home Family Reunion and Juneteenth) have become Richmond institutions. The former majorette also teaches courses in African dance and is host to art shows at the society's downtown headquarters.

8. Frances Lewis

Along with her late husband, Sydney, her influence shows up in the strangest places — Warhol work, for one. The Lewises made a career of giving away parts of their Best catalog fortune to Virginia schools and art programs, New York's Whitney Museum and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which has also received part of their extensive art collection.

9. Harry Kollatz Jr.

One of the city's true history gadflies, the be-hatted Kollatz is ubiquitous: senior writer for Richmond magazine, co-founder of the Firehouse Theatre Project, general encyclopedia on the city and, when time allows and wardrobe has a hat, an actor.

10. Kathy Emerson

From managing the 17th Street Farmers' Market, to moving into an apartment in Plant Zero in Manchester, to planting the Quirk Gallery on West Broad Street, an Emerson project is an early sign of a neighborhood turning around.

11. Kathy Panoff

Since signing on as executive director of UR's Modlin Center in 1995, Panoff has injected global culture into the Richmond community with the steady stream of world-famous classical, jazz, world music, theater and dance.

12. Murray DePillars

Former dean of VCU's School of the Arts, DePillars was responsible for building up the programs that have made Richmond a place to get your hands wet (with paint). If Richmond has a mark as an artist city, DePillars did a lot to give it that reputation while exploring ideas of African-American identity through his own work, which has traveled around the world.

13. Pam Reynolds

The fashion-forward chair of VFMA's board can reliably move more money than most and has been involved in the arts ever since she relocated here in the late-'70s. Reynolds' projects have touched on a gamut of local institutions, including the Richmond Symphony, the Virginia Center for the Performing Arts, the Richmond Ballet and the Virginia Opera.

14. Doug Richards

The abundance of trombones and improvisational jazz in Richmond is due in large part to Richards, who established the Jazz Studies Program at VCU. He continues to inspire young musicians to compose and perform through his instruction, sure, but also through his own stellar arrangements.

15. Jim Bland

In addition to beating up his little brother, Style Weekly Art Director Jeff Bland, Jim has benefited this city by giving it an independent record store, Plan 9 Music. Actually, he's given Virginia seven stores that feature CDs and DVDs, a wealth of used records and in-store performances by touring musicians.

16. GWAR

The gross-out public persona of GWAR, a gang of VCU art-school dropouts who became intergalactic fluid-spewing Grammy nominees, is weirdly counterbalanced by the fact that the group builds its own costumes, does its own production work, takes on interns, profit-shares and guest-lectures at the Rhode Island School of Design, one of the most highly regarded art schools in the country.

17. Randy Strawderman

The Barksdale Theatre's former artistic director, Strawderman helmed an impressive season year after year, but also made a name for himself with his musical "Red, Hot and Cole," the Cole Porter tribute that has gone national.

18. and 19. Peter Kirkpatrick and Francois Kirkpatrick

With such a pittance of art-house movie houses in town, it's incredible that the Kirkpatricks got the French Film Festival off the ground at all back in 1993. But once it got comfortable in those seats at the Byrd Theatre, the festival's taken off. Now it's amazing to see the French cinephiles expatriate from their country and roam around Carytown for a weekend, admiring, no doubt, our many Thai restaurants.

20. Christina Newton

Even though her Broad Street art walk hasn't been around for 25 years of First Fridays, it's proven its worth in the seven years of its well-mannered chaos. It remains to be seen how it'll change in the wake of the latest Master Plan, but her child has gotten an entire city behind its rearing and proper care.

21. Avail

It would be difficult to define Richmond's musical culture without including the effect of veteran punks Avail. Still touring as a whole, Avail has a satellite presence in lead singer Tim Barry, whose own acoustic solo performances anoint him the bard of Richmond life (the part with all the trains and Oregon Hill).

22. and 23. Michael Gooding and John Knapp

For a conservative city to have a theater focusing on GLBT issues is an accomplishment. But that the Richmond Triangle Players has stayed consistently funny, thought-provoking and well-attended throughout its 15-year life is a tribute to the work of Gooding and Knapp, as well as a community that's, after 400 years, starting to loosen up.

24. Dave Lowery

The front man for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven has paid his dues through the years, but applies his rock-star wisdom to his recording studio, Sound of Music, where both big names and young upstarts cut albums under his watchful eye.

  • Back to the Cover Story
  • Favorite

    Latest in And One to Grow On


    Subscribe to this thread:

    Add a comment

    More by Brandon Reynolds

    Connect with Style Weekly

    Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation