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Richmond's institutions are ready for Y2K. Are you? ... The Whitney taps a VCU sculpture grad for its Biennial ... Northside Magazine rides the wave of publication proliferation ... Getting craftsy at the canal 

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Richmond's institutions are ready for Y2K. Are you?
The Whitney taps a VCU sculpture grad for its Biennial
Northside Magazine rides the wave of publication proliferation
Getting craftsy at the canal
Richmond's institutions are ready for Y2K. Are you?

Power grid? Check. Water and sewer? Check. Phones? Checkaroni. ATMs? Checkaroo.

You? _______.

With 10 days and counting before the thousands digit on our invisible odometer turns, key institutions say they are ready. Virginia Power last week brought the last of its power stations into Y2K serenity. Bell Atlantic says it's prepared, too. So do the banks.

Even so, state and local governments — and utilities and banks and others — will have thousands of employees on hand and on call in case all is not well. Now institutions say they are most concerned about what you will do in the hours before and after midnight, Jan. 1.

"Our biggest concern, really, is that consumers might panic," says Johanna Brudvig, Y2K communications manager at Crestar Bank. "The danger really comes in as we get close ... and that century date changes in other parts of the world," as many as 17 hours before it does here. "There's plenty of time for people to overreact to news of disruption somewhere else." But don't let less-prepared nations rattle you: "Just because the power goes off in Zimbabwe doesn't mean it's going to go off here."

Brudvig says that in addition to institutions, individuals here need to be ready. Common sense says have a full tank of gas, enough cash to get through any other long holiday weekend, and stuff to eat and keep yourself warm — just in case.

Local supermarkets are more than happy to help. Ukrop's has handy Y2K item checklists, which also give notice that in case of a storm or Y2K emergency, Ukrop's will have 10 stores "open and running on generators." (But: "If all is well, all Ukrop's will be closed on Jan. 1 so that our associates can spend the holiday with friends and family.") At Hannaford Bros., plastic grocery bags remind one to fill them with everything from canned foods to diapers. Along aisle shelves, orange-and-violet signs indicate: "Be Prepared/Stock Up Item."

Being physically prepared will help you be psychologically prepared (and not feel a need to empty bank accounts or do anything else that could cause a self-fulfilling disaster). Who knows? You just may enjoy New Year's Day.

- Rob Morano

The Whitney taps a VCU sculpture grad for its Biennial

Artist Tara Donovan has not yet had a chance to reflect upon the recent announcement that her work has been selected as part of The Whitney Museum of American Art's 2000 Biennial Exhibition. She's been too busy. Busy preparing for the opening of "Whorl," an installation piece currently on display at the Hemicycle Gallery at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, and busy planning for a January move to New York, where she has won a fellowship that provides her with free studio space in TriBeCa for a year.

Still, in a year filled with artistic achievements — including the completion of her masters of fine arts degree in sculpture at Virginia Commonwealth University and a $10,000 Joan Mitchell Award for her art — the recent news about the Whitney Biennial is the undisputed highlight.

"What can I say that won't sound totally ridiculous?" Donovan says with a delighted giggle when asked how she reacted to the news. "I was completely excited. It opens a ton of doors — what those doors are exactly I have no idea, I'm just going to kind of wait and see."

The Whitney Biennial is the New York museum's signature exhibition and has become one of the primary milestones in American art history. "The Whitney Biennial is arguably the most important exhibiion in the United States for fine artists," says Joe Seipel, professor and chairman of VCU's sculpture department, one of the top five sculpture programs in the nation.

The 2000 Biennial will feature work from 97 American artists hand-picked by the exhibition's six curators. Donovan will show "Ripple," an installation made from electrical cable that Donovan has cut into tiny pieces. Donovan sprinkles this material onto the floor and forms it with her hands, creating "open, hollow ripples" evoking a windswept desert.

Seipel, who taught Donovan at VCU, says, "Her work really speaks to just the pure visual experience of these materials. This is not a word that gets used very often, but they're really quite beautiful."

Donovan first showed "Ripple" in Richmond in October 1998 in a small show with other VCU sculpture students. "I don't make small salable objects," Donovan explains. "I make big installations. I'm doing what I really want to do."

And doing it successfully. Although she says she still has to waitress from time to time to make ends meet, with these recent successes the 30-year-old artist is well on her way to doing what many artists only dream of — making a living from her art.

"I look forward to following her career with wild anticipation," Seipel says. "I think we're going to be reading [about] and seeing a lot of her."

— Jessica Ronky Haddad

Northside Magazine rides the wave of publication proliferation

Don't cancel those subscriptions just yet. The death of print media — especially community publications — has not only been exaggerated, authorities say; the patient has made a surprising recovery.

Northside Magazine, for example, in 2000 plans "to expand our coverage area significantly, and that may include a sister publication," says Charles McGuigan, editor of the Arch Communications monthly. "Things have been going very well for us here." The regional magazine covers Hanover, Henrico and the city, and a sister publication could well focus on other areas, he says.

McGuigan thinks Richmonders are supporting publications such as Northside Magazine because they are seeking "a sense of community" and "something a little closer to home" from the media. As evidence he points to the enthusiastic response to articles such as the 8,000-word piece Northside Magazine published this summer on the Chickahominy River, and adds: "I think people are bored by TV and all the things that the Internet had promised."

Northside isn't the only Richmond community that feels that way, says Ginger Stanley, executive manager of the Virginia Press Association. There now are more than a dozen such non-newspaper publications here — with more to come in 2000, such as the much-anticipated regional arts magazine 64.

"It's definitely one of the more prolific times," Stanley says. "I've been watching it closely ... because people have been saying the Internet is going to make papers obsolete. ... I think one is helping the other, quite frankly."

That's not only due to healthy corporate advertising budgets and the ease of desktop publishing, she thinks. "It's easier to start up ... (but) I don't think it's any easier to have a quality product" and stay in business, Stanley says, and notes that 1999 saw the loss of some local publications. But: "Different voices within communities I think is the wave of the future and I expect to see more of it."

Stanley adds she's seen the same trend in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. "I believe people are having less and less time to spend with the daily newspaper," she says. They are "more and more involved with their community and what's going on in their neighborhoods."

- Rob Morano

Getting craftsy at the canal

This spring a bevy of artisans could flock to the Canal Walk.

Think mini-Venice. Arts and crafts.

Something like the popular Hand Workshop's annual Craft and Design Show.

That's the image Chris Risatti, executive director for Downtown Presents, hopes to paint in the minds of thousands of Richmonders.

"It's still up in the air," says Risatti who's already gotten the green light from Kathy Emerson at the Farmer's Market to join forces with Downtown Presents for the event. All that's needed now is a sponsor.

"I feel confident it will happen in the future," says Risatti, "but when is another question."

It's also the question many Richmonders eager for more than a snow-cone stand and a gleaming quiet canal to lure them downtown are asking.

According to Jody Lephardt, an administrator with Richmond Riverfront Development Corp., four parcels around the canal are under contract for three projects. The Lady Bird Hat Co. building likely will be a restaurant and the Norfolk Southern railroad property also is under contract by a third-party developer who plans to buy or lease the property. "Seven remaining parcels are uncommitted," says Lephardt. For now, mysteries abound. To the dismay of canal walkers and the RRDC, developers' pockets appear frozen. But come springtime, let's hope more than snow cones spring up at the canal.

— Brandon Walters
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