The Blue Raccoon

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Girls Are Back (But they made need umbrellas)
First Friday Goes Global

Yes, if those members of the billion-eyed will repeat along for the benefit of those who are new to the Blue Raccoon: it's First Friday in Richmond, which means that we take to the sidewalks and troop from art gallery to art gallery on Broad Street and the tributaries. The image above was taken, not by me, during a long ago opening at the now-defunct Three Miles Gallery now part of the busy and expanded Tarrant's Cafe. Back in the day the place at Foushee and Broad was a pharmacy and lunch counter where city government denizens and interested parties gathered to swap gossip and they themselves "The Gutter Club."

The ladies may want to pack fashionable galoshes and carry pretty umbrellas because there's a 30 percent chance that the high art hike could get a soaker. But that shouldn't dampen anybody's enthusiasm, much like the excited art-goer on the right.

Tonight is bursting at the seams with all manner of exotic entertainments. At the Richmond Public Library
will perform the Gamelan Raga Kusuma. The University of Richmond's own Balinese Gamelan Orchestra will perform traditional Indonesian music and dance with their enormous, hand crafted gamelan, an ensemble of bronze gongs, chimes, cymbals and drums housed in intricately carved wooden cases. The Gamelan Ensemble will be joined by Brazilian capoeira musicians and dancers led by Mestre Panao, and Kevin Harding’s Bossa ensemble.

Over at Gallery 5 there's a blow-out party celebrating its and RVA Magazine's third anniversary, it's five bucks, it'll be crowded and loud, and exuberant.

But the Partner-In-Art-For-Life and I are intending to scramble up stairs above Gallery6 to see new work by our friend and Art Cheerleader Kendra Dawn Wadsworth showing at the Todd S. Hale Gallery.

Kendra's paintings and drawings are informed by her time in Arizona, of the native mixed with the pop culture, and a passion for living that is reflected in her ardent enjoyment of the equine. This is all new work. The reproduction below isn't very good, came from a thumbnail, but.

Meanwhile, over at The Ghostprint Gallery are paintings of Anna Kaarina Nenonen. According to the gallery's description, the Finnish native "is a figurative painter with a provocative and ironical approach to female sexuality. Combining elements of expressionism and photo-realism , eroticism and intellectualism, her work is ambiguous and thought provoking."

Over at the 1708 Gallery, celebrating its 30th anniversary as an artist-run gallery, is a full house of varied and intriguing work by artists for the 18th annual art auction, April 19.

The non-profit space for the art of now hired a new executive director; a from-here in a way as a opposed to a come-here, with the lyrical name of Tatjana Franke Beylotte. She was until of late Arts Education Coordinator, Publications Manager and Webmaster for the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She comes to Richmond by Charleston, S.C. and the Spoleto Festival, Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Institute. Taking the reins of an arts organization in the best of times is courageous, but now as we get the feeling we're on the downside descent of not even the highest rise in a surreal roller coaster, is in the realm of Joan of Arc, or Art, as the case may be. We wish her all the best. It's going to be a wild ride.

1708 is poised to do some huge events, not the least of which is "In Light" on September 5th beginning at 7:00 p.m. an running until midnight, a light-inspired celebration of the gallery’s 30th anniversary.

The idea comes from such concepts as the "Nuit Blanche" that originated in Paris, wherein art institutions and museums remain open all night. Richmond’s first contemporary arts“happening” of this magnitude will be free and open to the public.

Also tonight, an opening reception at the Valentine Richmond History Center between 7-10pm for Battle for the City: The Politics of Race 1950s-70s, an exhibition featuring imagery and artifacts focused on citywide conflicts over integration, civil rights, urban planning, transportation, and political representation - the outcomes of continue to affect Richmond’s physical and social landscape.

If you want to see the outlines of why my fair city doesn't have an effective mass transit system, can't lead a cooperative and fundamental region-wide administration, nor a consolidated school system (anti-busing protest at Capitol Square, below left), and can't seem to manage running itself, here's why.

Due to race and its socio-economic implications/ramifications, the black and white leadership class was chased from the city into the suburbs and beyond, and engineers and businessmen carved up Richmond like a pumpkin. The 21st century has got to be better. It's just got to be. Those bad days are a while ago, and the perpetrators dead or very old. But the sins of the fathers, as the Biblical injunction goes, are visited upon the last generation.

Some of the noteworthy artifacts included are part of the Woolworth’s lunch counter (image above; the store was demolished to make way for the upcoming Richmond Haus von Kunst and Kultur), a seat from Parker Field, a Klan robe, and the office chair used by Mayors Henry Marsh, Roy A. West, Geline B. Williams, and Walter T. Kenny.

And, yes, it's off the main corridor, but, never fear. They've done a smart thing to provide a free shuttle at either the Valentine Richmond History Center or at the corner of Madison and West Broad Street, near Quirk Gallery. The history bus'll make a continuous loop from 7-10pm between the First Fridays area and the History Center.

Gotta Get Cool, Babe

Photographer, poet, scribe, and adventurer Elli Morris has made a contribution to one of my favorite kinds of bookshelves; the one used for Obscure Niche Events That Alter The Course of History.

Her book is Cooling The South: The Block Ice Era (1875-1975) and this handsome, wide white pages of the well-written self-made volume will be good to open up during the torporous days to come in August.

Artificial ice--like most items in the catalogue of the Shock of the New--was considered heresy. Down here in Richmond, the Yuengling/James River Steam Brewery used ice chopped off Lake Erie shipped down here and loaded into underground cooling tunnels (still extant, amid the Rockett's Landing business). But the problem with natural ice, as Elli told me, was it often contained things you didn't want in your drink, much less your ice.

Here, Mrs. Jane King rose to prominence as the city's Ice Queen, at a time when few women ran their own business, or, as Morris points out, dealt with sailors and dockworkers. In 1911, the heat was so dreadful that there was fear of an "ice famine" and near riots broke out as those in need crowded ice trucks to get at the blocks. Demand exceded production.

Block ice transformed how the South went about work and play and presaged the Sun Belt made possible through air conditioning (the downside is we got "Atlangeles," Georgia. ) Elli was brought up in this business, she's from Mississippi, and that makes her both cool -- and hot. Part memoir, part history, part travelogue, Cooling the South, with 209 photographs in both color and glorious black and white is available through the book's website and finer local bookstores. Thus summer, she'll be on a publishing tour, so look for her nearby. I would, if I was you.

An excerpt:

"Crinkling, crunching, shattering ice is what I still remember most from the storage room. As an adult, the beauty of the glacially-blue blocks of ice stuns me, but as a child, the sound of walking on white frost and broken chips of ice was beyond cool.

Everything else in the rest of my Mississippi world, the mud, grass and pine straw, was a soft, muffled quiet under my feet no matter how hard I stomped. But in the ice room I became a giant from another world, from the moon or Mars or an undiscovered galaxy, a ferocious monster capable of huffs and puffs and heaving ho.

Contrary to my mighty feet, my squeals and screams were stopped in mid-air by the thickly insulated walls and dense blocks of ice. This altered transformation was fantastic. It was freezing. It was short-lived when my uncle shooed me out of the workers’ way and pulled me back into the normal life of trees, sun and sky.

Hebron was generous with me and the gaggle of cousins underfoot, imparting his father’s, and his father’s father’s passion for a business that impacted their region of America as deeply and creatively as it impacted four generations of the Morris family."

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