Channel 6 Ax Falls on Weekend Anchor 

Street Talk

Channel 6 Ax Falls on Weekend Anchor
Shockoe Bottom Arts Center Plans Growth
Would You Like Fries With That Political Statement?
This Pig's a Real Ham
All SOLs, All The Time

Channel 6 Ax Falls on Weekend Anchor

Just two weeks after the sudden departure of WTVR-TV former General Manager Sheila Oliver, there's another departure, with the potential for more to come. With some highly visible changes, new Channel 6 boss Mark Pimentel is putting teeth behind his mandate to pull the station out of third place. Pimentel was unavailable for comment.

The most recent pink slip goes to Sherri Richmond, just finishing her first year as weekend news anchor and morning fill-in. "It came as a surprise to Sherri," says attorney Dennis Whelan, who's helping her sort career options. "That's really all the comment we have."

"It was a good ride," Richmond says. "The only thing I can say is I did my job really well and respect the hard-working people at the station."

Richmond worked on-air at two West Virginia television stations for eight years and moved here last year. She plans to remain in the area. "I've fallen in love with this place, and my husband just started a new job." The two had worked at WTVR together until Friday.

Collins Spencer will be the station's solo weekend anchor.

Surprise dismissals are nothing new in broadcasting — ask former WTVR meteorologist Kevin Collins, WRVA's Jim Jacobs or WRIC-TV anchor Ric Young, among the recent casualties. And, for some colleagues who remain behind, the uncertainty and the hushed-up "who's next" game might be worse than the termination.

— Deveron Timberlake

Shockoe Bottom Arts Center Plans Growth


Shockoe Bottom Arts Center -- Information and events

Shockoe Bottom Arts Center is a home away from home for many of the artists who lease studio space there, so maybe it's not a surprise that the arts center itself is seeking a mortgage.

The Shockoe Bottom Arts Center Corp. is negotiating to buy the former tobacco factory at 2001 E. Grace St. that it has been leasing from a group of local investors for the past five years, says Rusty Davis, president of the arts center.

Immediately thereafter, Davis hopes to expand the 70,000-square-foot arts center by 10,000 square feet with the addition of 14 new extra-spacious studios with large windows. "That will free up more room downstairs for people who are more exhibition-oriented," explains Davis.

Currently, the arts center occupies two floors with 118 studios. More than 150 studio artists, from painters and sculptors to a guitar maker, lease studio space and exhibit their work at the arts center.

— Richard Foster

Would You Like Fries With That Political Statement?

Following NATO's blunderous bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, protesters in China stoned the U.S. Embassy and broke windows in McDonald's restaurants.

And here at home, a lone dissident apparently showed his or her solidarity with the Chinese by spray-painting the deeply political statement "Go China Go!" on the McDonald's in Carytown.

Style Weekly received a "communiqué" by anonymous e-mail claiming responsibility for the vandalism. "Anyone can revolt! The spray paint cost $1," the mysterious vandal writes.

Hmmm ... we understand the Chinese lashing out at all symbols of America in their homeland, but attacking a McDonald's here? We're relatively certain those weren't Mcmissiles that fell over Belgrade.

Still, the spray painter argues, "The protesters in China have made the connection between the U.S. war machine and corporate imperialism."

A perplexed manager at the Carytown McDonald's said the restaurant has already painted over the graffiti and did not call police. She could not say whether her store had individually contributed to the American military industrial complex.

— R.F.

This Pig's a Real Ham

Fran Martin's pig is in hot water. When a neighbor discovered that a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Smithfield was living at the Martins' Stratford Hills home, she called Animal Control and demanded that the pig be removed. Now, disgruntled neighbor and pig have met, and the neighbor has rescinded her request. She wants Smithfield to stay.

"He is a very talented pig," Martin says.

Smithfield has amazed community groups with his tricks and abilities. He can sit down, stand up, shake hands, balance treats on his nose, turn in circles, bow and stick out his tongue.

"He's not just any pig," Martin says, "but the neighborhood pig, the community pig. He's the neighborhood celebrity."

Smithfield also paints. Martin taught Smithfield to grasp a paintbrush in his mouth and stroke the canvas. He's been slopping paint since January.

All this talent makes Smithfield a busy pig. He has appeared at the State Fair, the Science Museum of Virginia's ZOOMzone, and recently, donated one of his paintings to a benefit wine dinner and fantasy auction sponsored by Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Smithfield also auditioned for the Late Show with David Letterman, but was turned down. Martin thinks he lost the spot to another pig that rescued its owners from a fire. "They didn't want to put two pigs on close to each other," she said. And "it did save a family from a fire."

Smithfield's summer itinerary includes return trips to the State Fair and the Science Museum, and a possible audition for Regis and Kathie Lee.

"I believe there's a good chance he might go national," Martin says.

Not if Martin is ordered to get rid of the pig. Even though his neighbor has changed her mind, the legal proceedings begun against Smithfield cannot be stopped. "If removed from my home, he could lose it all," Martin says.

Smithfield isn't giving up without a fight. Wyatt Durette, lawyer and former candidate for governor, has agreed to represent Smithfield, free of charge. Durette could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Martin keeps Smithfield focused on his ongoing contributions to society. She says, "It's wonderful that a pig can do some good."

— Wayne Melton

All SOLs, All The Time

Imagine you're a third-grader in a Richmond or Henrico public school. All last week, you're up to your eyeballs in SOL testing, but at least the barrage of standardized tests is over until fifth grade, right?


While their schoolmates in the third, fifth, eighth and 11th grades are taking the state-mandated Standards of Learning tests, students in all other grades are taking similar assessment tests in both Richmond and Henrico.

The Henrico Assessment Tests, given to kindergartners through 10th graders and developed by Henrico teachers and administrators, "give teachers and principals information on student progress at every grade level," says Janet Binns, Henrico's director of information and community services.

Richmond is taking a similar approach with third through eighth graders, but its test is being developed with the help of outside vendors, says Yvonne Brandon, director of instruction for Richmond's public schools.

Chesterfield County school officials are considering SOL-type testing in the off-grades.

Betty Lambdin, the Virginia Education Association's director of instruction and professional development, gives the off-grade tests her qualified approval. She says the purpose of any test should be diagnostic, and not to determine how much a student knows.

Richmond's Brandon explains that the off-grade tests are a work in progress. But they will be integrated into the curriculum "as much as possible," Brandon says. "We don't want to cause any more stress or strain [for the students.]"

— Mark Stroh

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