December 12, 2017 News & Features » Cover Story


The Year in Review 

From history-makers to movers and shakers, what we’ll remember from 2017.

click to enlarge Liza Mickens, the great-great-granddaughter of Maggie Walker, and Mayor Levar Stoney pull a cover off the new statue to Walker on July 15.

Scott Elmquist

Liza Mickens, the great-great-granddaughter of Maggie Walker, and Mayor Levar Stoney pull a cover off the new statue to Walker on July 15.

click to enlarge Loren Allison overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl last year. She keeps a picture of her mug shot on her phone. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Loren Allison overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl last year. She keeps a picture of her mug shot on her phone.

Inside the Opioid Crisis

In 2015, 806 people died from opioid-drug-related deaths in Virginia. By the first half of 2016, the number of fatal drug overdoses was on track to increase 35 percent from the year before, prompting Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. He and Attorney General Mark Herring announced programs to make naxolone, an overdose prevention drug, more available to first responders and to friends and families of addicts.

In our Jan. 10 cover story, "Elusive Antidote," Style looked at one survival story in the fight against Virginia's opioid epidemic. "On days where I want to give up and say, 'I don't want to do this today,'" says Loren Allison, "I think of how far I've come and my children — how they didn't ask to be here, to have a mother who's an addict."

click to enlarge Lisa Sims - VENTURE RICHMOND
  • Venture Richmond
  • Lisa Sims

Venture Richmond Names New Executive Director

The event group tasked with enhancing downtown for the masses and developers announced that Lisa Sims would become the new executive director following the departure of Jack Berry in 2016. Sims is an energetic personality who knows her way around Venture's biggest events such as the Richmond Folk Festival, which broke a fundraising record this year, from years of experience as director of events and director of the Folk Festival. She's been in Richmond for two decades and has been a player in the large crowds we've seen downtown, from Friday Cheers and the Second Street Festival to Dominion RiverRock. Later in October, Venture also named Anedra Bourne, formerly the tourism coordinator for the city, as its new deputy executive director.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Women March on Monument

On Saturday, Jan. 17, more than a thousand people turn out for a March on Monument rally, expressing concern about women's rights under Donald Trump's term as president. Leaders in the group call for unity and energy.

"Show me what democracy looks like," grand marshal Rebecca Wooden Keel yells. "This is what democracy looks like," the crowd calls back.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Mayor Levar Stoney Addresses Immigration

The month of February is dominated by stories surrounding Trump's executive orders on immigration. While Richmond is far from the Mexican border and its airport fields few international arrivals, questions were raised about how an order about sanctuary jurisdictions would affect the city.

Mayor Levar Stoney does not designate Richmond a sanctuary city, but signs a directive affirming city policies of inclusion.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Council Frustrated Over Reedy Creek

A Richmond official with the Department of Public Utilities agrees to promise in writing that his department will withdraw an application for a controversial Reedy Creek project, opposed by many of its Forest Hill neighbors, following a tense discussion with City Council members.

click to enlarge Westwood Tract faces Brook Road between Westwood and Rennie avenues. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Westwood Tract faces Brook Road between Westwood and Rennie avenues.

Residential Neighborhoods Push Back

In late March, two meetings pit residents against nearby development plans and throw a spotlight on zoning regulations in Richmond. At City Council on March 27, North Side residents express opposition to construction of a 301-unit apartment complex by Union Presbyterian Seminary on what's known as the Westwood Tract. And at Powhatan Recreation Center on March 30, a crowd of East End neighbors of an old trolley barn share concerns about a plan to demolish it to build an 82-unit apartment building, Glenwood Ridge.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELLMQUIST
  • Scott Ellmquist

Monument Debate Heats Up

Every few years the debate resurfaces. Now the city must decide whether to take the helm and what to do about our highly visible and prominent collection of Confederates. In an April 4 cover story, "Is Monument Avenue Set in Stone?" we looked at the issues facing those who attempt to address this volatile and controversial proble — just before it was about to explode nationally in the aftermath of the violent and tragic Charlottesville protests in August.

click to enlarge Margaret “Margi” Vanderhye, a former state delegate from Northern Virginia, is executive director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, where she oversees a vital flow of operating money to arts groups across the Commonwealth. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Margaret “Margi” Vanderhye, a former state delegate from Northern Virginia, is executive director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, where she oversees a vital flow of operating money to arts groups across the Commonwealth.

Lobbyists Push for More State Arts Funding

Over the past decade, Virginia has fallen to 40th in the nation in state arts funding at 43 cents per capita. The Virginia Commission for the Arts launched its 50th anniversary year and pushed for roundtables to help strategize for the arts.

As noted in a Style cover story on its lobbying efforts, the commission is a state agency that "is a crucial organization providing operating fund support — such unsexy stuff as utilities, rent and salaries — for arts organizations large and small across Virginia. The bulk of its funding, 74 percent, goes to counties whose income falls below the state median, basically underserved areas, both urban and rural."

More recently, the commission has circulated a petition asking the General Assembly to increase its grant funding by $1.5 million in each year of the new state budget to a total of $4.9 million.

click to enlarge Bill Fisher’s “Wasted and Wounded”
  • Bill Fisher’s “Wasted and Wounded”

Prolific Local Painter Dies

On April 24, Richmond lost artist Bill Fisher, a prolific and celebrated painter who taught at Virginia Commonwealth University and was known for his abstract works. After his death, an exhibit, "Timeworn Walls and Open Wounds: a Bill Fisher Retrospective" was held at Randolph-Macon College that a Style visual arts critic calls "critically riveting … a must see."

click to enlarge Shawn Brixey - EDWARD GAJDEL
  • Edward Gajdel
  • Shawn Brixey

VCU Names New Dean of School of the Arts

In May, VCU named its new dean of the School of the Arts, Shawn Brixey, who comes to the school from his post as dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design at York University in Toronto.

In a cover story interview with Style, Brixey explained how he became a hybrid of scientist and artist, one who will look to forge connections at the university with a more interdisciplinary approach. He's quite the talker, too.

"I had to become a scientist and engineer to become the artist I really wanted to be," he says. "Hybridization is becoming a primary modality that many artists embrace, and art schools need to embody a culture that inspires an industry of creative daring in every community member."

The keyword here is industry, as Brixey will need to find ways to generate new revenue for the School of the Arts, considering a number of its teachers are adjunct professors who in December will be organizing and calling for better pay through a petition and rally.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Sheriff Woody Freed From Jail Duties

In June, Antionette Irving beat out incumbent Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. by 826 votes in a primary election. A former deputy with the Henrico County Sheriff's Office, Irving grew up in Creighton Court and graduated from Armstrong-Kennedy High School. In November, Irving defeats independent candidates Nicole Jackson and Emmett Jafari to be Richmond's next sheriff.

click to enlarge Valerie Cassel Oliver - DAVID STOVER/VMFA
  • David Stover/VMFA
  • Valerie Cassel Oliver

VMFA Hires New Modern Art Curator

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts appoints a new Sydney and Frances Lewis family curator of modern and contemporary art, Valerie Cassel Oliver. She comes to the position from her role as senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Oliver is one of five African-American women who now hold senior positions at the museum.

click to enlarge A festive crowd of about 600 people gathered all day for the unveiling of the Maggie Walker statue, the first Richmond woman to be honored among the city’s outdoor monuments. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • A festive crowd of about 600 people gathered all day for the unveiling of the Maggie Walker statue, the first Richmond woman to be honored among the city’s outdoor monuments.

Maggie Walker Memorial Unveiled

Some 600 people gather in the morning heat on Saturday, July 15, for the unveiling of a new statue of Maggie Walker, the legendary Richmond civic leader and entrepreneur from Jackson Ward. At Adams and Broad streets, city leaders pull back tarps covering a statue of Walker, who once worked and lived within walking distance of the plaza. Members of her family were in attendance.

As Style's contributing editor Edwin Slipek wrote: "It took an extended and sometimes contentious path to get this memorial built. But in the end, the public-art process worked. Maggie Walker's bronze presence, and the achievements and humanity it symbolizes, brings immediate grace to a hard-edged city crossroads. And when the three shade trees grow large enough to provide a leafy canopy, this should become a much-needed and beloved oasis."

click to enlarge Umesh Dalal - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Umesh Dalal

City Auditor Resigns Amid Allegations from Staff

On Monday morning, July 20, Richmond's longest serving councilor, Reva Trammell, held a news conference at City Hall in support of City Auditor Umesh Dalal.

"Umesh is being targeted for firing in a conspiracy by the city administration, working through the city attorney, Allen Jackson," she writes in a release. "They are attempting to stop him from doing his job. This is pure evil."

By the end of the day, she is voting to accept his resignation with the rest of City Council.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Monument Avenue Commission Hears Heated Discussion

"No Context, No Compromise" read the signs of several audience members at the contentious Aug. 9 meeting of the Monument Avenue Commission at the Virginia Historical Society, where opposing sides of the Confederate statue debate square off. Moderator Gregg Kimball, the Library of Virginia's director of education and outreach, tries gently to coax the crowd into staying focused, but at times the crowd turns raucous with people shouting down speakers.

click to enlarge CHARLOTTE RENE WOODS
  • Charlotte Rene Woods

Virginia Hit by Blue Wave on Election Night

Really it was more of a tsunami. Political fatigue or indifference might be a typical concern for people running in Virginia's off-year elections, but this year races in the House of Delegates are seen as a referendum on the 2016 results.

Fueled by a rising tide of female Democratic politicians beating their male opponents, Democrats pick up 15 seats with a number of those won by women, and another with a margin of only 10 votes still waiting on a recount in Newport News.

Racing down to the wire in the gubernatorial race, Gillespie and Northam steered through polarized political terrain and keep drama to a minimum with well-orchestrated audiences and well-rehearsed messages. Northam claims victory by 9 points.

click to enlarge Carlton Smith remembers his sister at a vigil in Richmond’s East End. Jenelle Smith, 26, was murdered in Gilpin Court on Sept. 10. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Carlton Smith remembers his sister at a vigil in Richmond’s East End. Jenelle Smith, 26, was murdered in Gilpin Court on Sept. 10.

Gun Violence Shocks the City

In September, Richmond is shell-shocked by two weekends of gun violence. Nine are dead in the inner city. Top leaders face intense public heat.

The recent carnage in neighborhoods of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority makes plain that Police Chief Alfred Durham's force may be overmatched by public policies long unfulfilled, mismanaged, ignored — or all of the above. When Mayor Levar Stoney gathers a news conference with his top brass to triage public frustration, a squad of community activists says as much.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Richmond Says Goodbye to Dirtwoman

Donnie Corker, famously known for his colorful drag persona, Dirtwoman, dies Sept. 26 at age 65. Locals who came of age in the funkier parts of Richmond from the '70s onward have Dirtwoman stories. (He got the name from relieving himself in a police car during his days as a prostitute). Whether selling flowers on the street, wrestling in jello, or raising money for FeedMore through the annual Hamaganza concert, Dirtwoman was a salty street celebrity the likes of whom you don't see much anymore, thanks probably to our self-cocooned lifestyles, gentrifying hoods and constant tethers to our phones and computers. Outrageous and blessed with an oversized heart, Corker inspired many by staying true to himself, cussing out the haters, and taking a big 'ole messy plop in the storied timeline of a fairly conservative city.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming documentary on his life by a local video producer and critic, Jerry Williams.

click to enlarge richmond_symphony.jpg

Richmond Symphony Celebrates 60th Season

On Sept. 23, RVA Live graces the Dominion Arts Center's Carpenter Theatre featuring the Richmond Symphony teaming with local music luminaries from other genres including Tim Barry, Natalie Prass and Bio Ritmo.

It was a stellar evening of beautifully fleshed-out music, and only one of a number of events planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary season of the Richmond Symphony. Another upcoming highlight includes the return of Richmond-raised composer Mason Bates in May. But that's not all for symphony news: It was recently announced that Richmond is the final North American city in the running to host the International Menuhin Competition, which some people call the Olympics of the Violin, in 2020. We're in the running against London and Melbourne, Australia. Not bad.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Environmentalists Protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline

On Sept. 14, Richmond police arrest 19 activists protesting the construction of the Atlantic Coast and the Mountain Valley pipelines. This is after a group of about 40 protesting kayakers paddled toward the city a week earlier to alert gubernatorial candidates to the possibility of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline placing Richmond's drinking water in jeopardy.

"This pipeline would disturb James River headwaters and run directly under the river," says organizer Laney Sullivan, whose multiday river voyage started on Sept. 4 in Buckingham County. "Already, Dominion Energy is every day polluting the James with coal ash wastewater. They should not be allowed to build any more infrastructure until they're responsible with their current projects and no longer routinely abusing the environment."

A Dominion Energy spokesman tells Style that the pipeline is "one of the most important infrastructure projects in our region's history." Expect for this issue to only heat up more in 2018.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Institute for Contemporary Art Pushes Back Opening

Virginia Commonwealth University's modernistic, Stephen Holl-designed Institute for Contemporary Art has taken shape at Broad and Belvidere streets, but the grand October opening date and the first exhibit, "Declaration," are delayed until spring. The official reason given is due to a revised schedule for construction. However, the institute also has experienced some serious turnover on its staff, losing 7 of 15 members, including its inaugural curator, Lauren Ross, "not by choice," she tells Style. Ross is now teaching local writers how to be better art critics.

When the Director Lisa Freiman began, she was able virtually to hand pick her staff. Asked about the turnover, she responded by email: "The ICA team is firing on all cylinders as we prepare for our opening on April 21, 2018, and we will soon be announcing some exciting new appointments. As with all organizations, we are nothing without our people. Our team has evolved over time, and I am consistently impressed and inspired by the commitment and creativity of the ICA staff and the VCU departments that support our work."

The institute has completed its initial capital campaign of $37 million and launched an endowment campaign with a $12 million goal.

click to enlarge Matthew E. White - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Matthew E. White

Spacebomb Partners Up

Spacebomb Studios in Shockoe Bottom is like our own little version of Stax Records, a collective of musicians with their own sound and vision. Started by Matthew E. White and utilizing the talents of many of the city's best musicians, it offers a label, studio, house band, as well as artist management and publishing group. In a relatively brief time, it has helped launch several nationally acclaimed artists from White himself to Natalie Prass and this year's big folk surprise, Bedouine.

But this year included a major step forward for the Spacebomb crew, as it received a seven-figure investment by entering into a partnership with Glassnote Entertainment Group's Resolved Records which "will provide financial, marketing and industry expertise," according to industry publication Billboard. Let's hope it can continue to make and release beautiful music, and more artists from around the world will continue to seek out Richmond.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Showtime's "Homeland" Films in Richmond

"No way! Is that Claire Danes sitting in the balcony VIP section at the National swaying gently to a stirring duet by Bon Iver and Bruce Hornsby? My god, it is! Wait. Don't look over at her. Seriously, be cool. You're staring right at her. Stop it, you're embarrassing me. No effing way, dude, do not go in for the selfie. Way to be like all the other Daniacs. Seriously, I don't know you anymore." And end scene.

Yes, Virginia, the talented actress known for her intense crying jags on Showtime's often overwrought drama, "Homeland," has been spotted all over town as the series films its seventh season in Richmond, a natural stand-in for Washington due to our sexy, government vibe. If you've been following this year's online stalk-a-celeb moments, you probably know that Danes loves Proper Pie since she bought its delicious food for her crew. But why is no one talking about catching a glimpse of supporting actor Tracy Letts? You know he's a Pulitzer-winning playwright who also can act? Is he even here? Anyone on Instagram care where he gets his socks or coffee? Anyone?

click to enlarge BRAD KUTNER
  • Brad Kutner

McAuliffe Embraces LGBTQ Community

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in the final months of his four-year term, leaves a strong impression on the state's LGBTQ population. In 2014, his first year in office, he became the first sitting Virginia governor to attend the state's largest LGBTQ festival in Richmond. He also made history that year by proclaiming June Pride Month across the state, another first for a Virginia governor. He has since returned every June to release a similar proclamation and every September to take the PrideFest stage.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Monument Protests Cool Off (For Now)

As an early winter snow fell across the city, pro-Confederate groups rallied against the removal of the monuments on Dec. 9.

About a dozen members of the CSA II: the New Confederate States of America and the Dixie Defenders, many of whom were heavily armed, protested at the Robert E. Lee monument while dozens more counterprotesters outnumbered them.

The CSA II group, with only six members, is the same one that rallied at the Lee monument in September, causing a massive police response as well as a counterprotest of about 200 people. The Richmond Police Department spent more than a half million dollars in response to the first rally. This time, a much smaller police response was a few dozen officers.




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