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FREE SUMMER 2018 no. 33

RVA magazine

13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

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RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


amazing 360 views of the city located at Graduate Richmond 301 W Franklin St, Richmond, VA

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RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

RVA #33 SUMMER 2018 RVA MAGAZINE EST. 2005 RVAMAG.COM

For our summer issue, the RVA Mag team got out of the city and explored, to bring back stories from around the Commonwealth. Madelyne Ashworth went west, visiting the families that form the frontline against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, for her piece, “Occupation Appalachia.” As pipeline construction begins in their backyards, farmers and families in Franklin County have taken to the trees in hopes of protecting the land. Closer to home, Editorial Director Landon Shroder went inside the headquarters of the FBI in Virginia, to study the Hammer Bearers casefile and learn what determines domestic terrorism. One year out from Charlottesville, he reports back on why it’s difficult to charge Americans with terrorism, even when they, like James Fields, Jr., have committed an atrocious crime. For art, I took a drive down the I-64 corridor to Virginia Beach, to see the work of Inka Essenhigh at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The New York City-based painter spoke to me about her technique, her evolution, and the unique worlds she creates, a blend of a childhood that was equal parts Dungeons & Dragons and Picasso. From GayRVA, our partner site, Editor Marilyn Drew Necci brings the story of Aaron McIntosh, whose project, Invasive Queer Kudzu, is an artistic imaging of collected Southern LGBTQ stories, portrayed on quilt panels. McIntosh, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, has seen his work spread like kudzu across the South, with exhibitions across the region. Chelsea Higgs Wise reports from Southside Richmond’s growing black art scene. Just a few miles from Broad Street, Manchester ManiFEST and other collectives of black visual artists and musicians are launching a rebirth of the original First Friday Art Walk that’s resisting gentrification and takeover by whiter, more corporate interests. In music, Hip Hop Henry reports from the campus of Virginia Union University on the layers of hiphop. In his latest piece, “The Word and the Book,” Henry takes us from hip-hop’s birth in the Bronx to the Ivory Tower, where students learn about the music’s intersections with faith and religion. Our second music piece, “Sweetly Begun,” comes from long-time music writer Davy Jones. Jones profiled singer-songwriter Andy Jenkins of Spacebomb Records, just in time for his debut album, Sweet Bunch.

FOUNDERS R. Anthony Harris + Jeremy Parker PUBLISHER Inkwell PRESIDENT John Reinhold MANAGING PARTNER LANDON SHRODER EDITOR-IN-CHief DAVID STREEVER WEB EDITOR, RVAMAG.COM Amy David Web editor, GAYRVA.com Marilyn Drew Necci SALES DIREctoR JOE VANDERHOFF DESIGN Llewellyn Hensley WRITERS Madelyne Ashworth, Amy David, Hip Hop HenrY, Davy Jones, Marilyn Drew Necci, Landon ShrodeR, David StreeveR, Megan WilsoN, Chelsea Higgs Wise PHOTOGRAPHY Landon Shroder,Branden Wilson INTERNS Sarah Honosky, John Donegan, Daniel Brickhouse, Andrew Goetzinger, Ash Griffith, Vivienne Lee, & Samantha Rinchetti GENERAL, EDITORIAL & DISTRIBUTION QUESTION hello@rvamag.com ADVERTISING JOHN REINHOLD 276 732 3410 // john@rvamag.com SUBMISSION POLICY RVA Magazine welcomes submissions but cannot be held responsible for unsolicited material. Send all submissions to hello@rvamag.com All submissions become property of Inkwell Ventures Inc. The entire content is a copyright of Inkwell Ventures Inc. and cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without written authorization of the publisher. ONLINE Every issue of RVA Magazine can be viewed in its entirety anytime at rvamag.com/magazine. SOCIAL @RVAmag SUBSCRIPTION Log onto rvamag.com/magazine to have RVA Magazine sent to your home or office. DISTRIBUTION Thank you to our distribution partners QUICKNESS RVA HEADS UP! The advertising and articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinion and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publisher or editors. Reproduction in whole or part without prior written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. RVA Magazine is published quarterly. Images are subject to being altered from their original format. All material within this magazine is protected. RVA Magazine is a registered trademark of Inkwell Ventures.

RVA Magazine is printed locally by Conquest Graphics cover by SPECIAL THANKS to Artifex M. Hunter Hagland

Thank you to our distribution partners Quickness RVA (quicknessrva.com), who drop mags to over 100 locations in addition to the following listed establishments! Broad Street Arts District

Gallery 5, 1708 Gallery, Turnstyle, Velocity Comics, max's on broad, Monument, Utmost, Round Two, Steady Sounds/Bare Bones Vintage, Lift Coffee, Quirk Hotel, rider boots

Carytown

Plan 9 Records, Agee’s Bicycles, New York Deli, Best friend's forever, Chop Suey Books, Heroes & Ghosts, Weezie’s Kitchen, Ellwoood Thompsons, Need Supply Co., burger bach, mellow mushroom, World of Mirth, Bits N Pixels, Tobacco Club & Gifts, Venue Skateboards

Downtown & Church Hill

Pasture, Barcode, Tobacco Company Bottom’s Up, Kulture, Alamo BBQ, kabana rooftop, society social club, Plant Zero Cafe, Cha Cha’s Cantina, Urban Farmhouse, Union Market, the nile ethiopian restaurant

MANCHESTER

Plant zero cafe, Manchester Market, moto richmond, legend brewing company

Museum District / devil's triangle

VMFA, Bandito’s Burrito Lounge, The Franklin Inn, little saint, sheppard street tavern, Patterson Express

NORTHSIDE

The MIll, Stir Crazy Coffee, blackhand coffee

Scott’s Addition

The Broadberry, En Su Boca, Buz & Ned’s BBQ, sabai, Lunch Supper, Ardent ales, Hardywood craft brewery, The Veil, fat dragon, boulevard burger & brews

The Fan

Beuvine burger concept, Commerical Taphouse, FW Sullivan’s, Lady Nawlins, Foo Dog, Commercial taphouse, Star-lite Lounge, Deep Grooves, Capitol Mac, Katra Gala, Sticky Rice, Joe’s Inn, Strawberry Street Market, Little Mexico, Lamplighter, Balliceaux, Helen’s, Metro Grill, Yesterday’s Heroes, pik nik, social 52, cary street cafe, city beach

VCU Area

ALB Tech, Strange Matter, Lamplighter VCU, Kulture, 821 Cafe, Fan Guitar & Ukulele, Ipanema, The Village, Mojo’s, Rumors boutique, my noodle bar, The Camel, tap 20

WEST END

NIssan Of Richmond, Mekong, Taboo, The Answer brewpub, Diamonds Direct, Guitar Center

We also have our regular features and columns, including RVAMag.com Editor Amy David’s Good Eats, Necci’s Studio News and record reviews, and Mass Appeal, with style and fashion reporting from Megan Wilson. As always, please be in touch with any feedback or your submissions. Thank you, DAVID STREEVER

13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

THank YOU To OUR SPONSORS

OUR MUSIC COVERAGE IS SPONSORED BY THE GRADUATE HOTEL of richmond OUR ART COVERAGE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY VIGINIA MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART 9


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RVAMAGAZINE MAGAZINE3333| SUMMER | SUMMER2018 2018 RVA


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SLEEP Follow us @RVAmag OPPOSITE PAGE Top MAIN: Progressive Liberal by @radiotokyo TOP RIGHT: @yeninostalji debut at @ gallery5art by @radiotokyo 2nd TOP RIGHT: hank wood and the hammerheads by @n.aytche_photo BOTTOM LEFT TOP: broad street by @_eyeofagiant BOTTOM LEFT BOTTOM: @lilyachty rap snacks BOTTOM MAIN@jtcamphoto featuring @naturalelegant THIS PAGE TOP: FUTURE LOVE by @the.art.of.cjs 2ND ROW: RICHMOND TANK by @radiotokyo BOTTOM row LEFT: @8th_notephoto BOTTOM ROW RIGHT: @drugr33n DON’T SLEEP -- tag us @RVAmag

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PLAYLIST TRACKS WORTH LISTENING TO

C0MPUTER, “LA RAZA”

CONSEQUENCES OF MASS PRODUCTION UNDER THE ENTERTAINMENT REGIME (INFINITE WEED) Philadelphia hardcore band C0MPUTER lay down some serious devastation on their latest EP. Full of razor-sharp slices of pure rage, none hit harder than “La Raza,” a 70-second tirade against the racist patriarchy of straight white men who continually play off their hurtful language as no big deal. “Oh, you were just kidding?” the singer says. “Ha… fucking… ha.” Then, as the band kicks into a brutal mosh riff, she derisively screams: “HAAA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA!” The fury in her voice is no laughing matter. --Marilyn Drew Necci

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER, “PASSING CLOUDS”

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER MEETS SPACEBOMB (SPACEBOMB) “Passing Clouds” brings together two inspiring forces: Hiss Golden Messenger, the uplifting project led by M.C. Taylor, and Spacebomb’s expert production team and house band. The match couldn’t be more fitting. The band’s precision complements Taylor’s knack for rhythm, en route to building the modern version of a socially-conscious Motown masterpiece. Proceeds from the single benefit Everytown, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing gun violence, and Taylor penned deeply affecting liner notes that address the psychology of sending kids to school in the era of Parkland and Newtown. A great song for a great cause. --Davy Jones

COLE HICKS, “REVENGE”

MAY DAY (COLEHICKSVA.BANDCAMP.COM) One of the dopest MC's in the city is back. Cole Hicks returns with her new solo project, May Day, on the heels of dropping a quickstrike project with Joey Gallo and J Clyde. I gave it a spin when it first dropped and was impressed; subject matter, production, and delivery are all on point. When I got to "Revenge," I knew this was my type of rap. A hard beat and Cole comes out swinging for the lyrical fences. Throw the earbuds in and bob until your neck hurts. Enjoy. --Hip Hop Henry

EMPATH, “POLYFOAM" ENVIRONMENTS (GET BETTER) Like David Lynch's sound design overlaid on something by the syncopathic pop band Tennis, Empath's new single, "Polyfoam," is lo-fi and fuzzy with a catchy tune--until the last 3 minutes. Ambient noise slowly drowns out the pop vocals, which make a brief return, before being totally replaced by static, "whooshing," and the eerie, discordant tunes of a brass instrument that seems torn between shrill high notes and the deep bass warnings of a foghorn. Apparently, it’s by design--per the cover, it’s the “wind” side on their forthcoming 7”, "Environments.” --David Streever

STIFF LOVE, “WALK IN THE DARK”

TROUBLE EP (NECK CHOP)

Olympia, Washington power pop quartet Stiff Love released a biting EP earlier this year on California label Neck Chop Records. Their riffs are culled from classic 60s garage rock, but have the snotty attitude of 70s punks like The Gizmos or the Cheifs. “Walk in the Dark” showcases their catchy guitar leads and singer Xtine’s raspy vocal shout, and the burly rhythm section keeps it all together. Look out for their upcoming release on Richmond label Feel It Records. --Daniel Berti

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STUDIO NEWS Local orchestral pop mainstays Goldrush have been on a break for a bit now, but take heart, all you fans of killer hooks: Goldrush frontman Prabir Mehta is still cranking out great tunes. Mehta says drummer Kelli Strawbridge, who also drums in Goldrush, “is kind of the driving force in decision making here. Once Goldrush took a break, he approached me and kept insisting we keep playing. He really pushed and encouraged me to keep my stuff going when I was a little bummed about Goldrush fun wrapping up.” Strawbridge brought on bassist and well-known local producer Russell Lacy to round out the lineup of the new project, dubbed the Prabir Trio. The three immediately headed into the studio, getting a ton of material on tape over the past year or so. They have a full LP “done [and] ready to rock,” in Mehta’s words, but they’re starting out small with a foursong EP, due out in July. Mehta is enthused about the new material. “It's probably my favorite set of songs I've ever recorded,” he says, and he credits the laid-back recording process as an important part of the music’s creation. “Tracking with Kelli and Russell at the Virginia Moonwalker was like spending a long stint of time with kindred spirits out in the woods, away from the noise and distraction of life.” Mehta’s really excited about showing the music to the world -- especially after a “production glitch” delayed the EP, originally scheduled for release in May -- and he gives all the credit to his bandmates. “Kelli and Russell are total pro musicians, so it's been super easy to just get things set up, worked out, knocked out, recorded, toured, and whatnot,” he says. “Playing with these fellas leaves me feeling like a new man somehow.” RVA indie-poppers Young Scum will soon release a self-titled fulllength, and as with previous material, they chose to eschew the studio environment in favor of more ad hoc locations while putting it together. “I suppose it's never been very important to us to have the super professional sound that a real studio would provide,” says singer-guitarist Chris Smith. “So yeah, we recorded most of the tracks at Tim Falen’s practice space.” Falen, who runs local label Trrrash Records and plays in bands like Bad Magic and Piranha Rama, provided a gritty sound and a good time for the band, but Smith says they ended up regretting their accelerated production schedule. “We tried to cram everything into a weekend and should have spaced it out between a few more days.” That wasn’t the end of the process, though. After listening to rough mixes, the band realized that guitar tracks were sounding muddy. They decided to bring in Mitch Clem of math rockers Fight Cloud to put the finishing touches on the album. This recording session happened mostly at Smith’s house, “which was a lot more comfortable than the practice space,” he says, laughing. Ultimately, the experience was beneficial for the band, despite the mid-stream change of venue. “It was fun to work with two different engineers,” Smith says. “Both Mitch and Tim offer their own takes and advice on how to do things.” Somewhere in-between, the band found the perfect musical recipe. -- Marilyn Drew Necci RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


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MUSIC REVIEWS

ANDY JENKINS SWEET BUNCH (SPACEBOMB)

The veteran Spacebomb collaborator makes his full-length debut in impressive fashion, with meditative, nuanced writing that calls to mind the finest singer-songwriters. Throughout, you’ll find masterful performances from the Spacebomb house band and multiinstrumentalist Phil Cook, as well as natural imagery that makes Sweet Bunch the perfect soundtrack for time spent down by the James this summer. (DJ)

HIP HOP HENRY (HH), DAVY JONES (DJ), MARILYN DREW NECCI (MN), AND SAMANTHA RINCHETTI (SR)

FLY ANAKIN & OHBLIV

BACKYARD BOOGIE (MUTANT ACADEMY WORLDWIDE)

On what is actually Anakin's first solo full-length, the young spitter goes from beginning to end over stellar production from Ohbliv. Beats and non-stop rhymes are the recipe, as Anakin mostly goes for himself throughout this project -- which definitely deserves all of your attention. (HH)

NATALIE PRASS

THE FUTURE AND THE PAST (ATO)

GOLD CONNECTIONS POPULAR FICTION (EGGHUNT)

MCKINLEY DIXON

THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-BELIEF (CITRUS CITY)

Building on the momentum of Gold Connections’ 2017 self-titled EP, Will Marsh returns with an EggHunt Recordsbacked full-length that shines over a span from cathartic sing-alongs -- like the final sequence of opening track “Icarus” -- to balanced production that's remarkable in how great it sounds at both loud and quiet moments. A rewarding listen from beginning to end. (DJ)

This angry young MC has been making waves around RVA; on his new album, he brings his live band into the studio for a more organic musical feel, making this release a quantum leap for an alreadystandout artist. His politically-informed lyrics hit harder than ever on tracks like “Circle The Block,” “Black Boy Flies,” and the title track. Essential listening. (MN)

NICKELUS F

PARK SPARROWS

Fresh from receiving his degree at VCU, Petey returns with his long awaited new project, Stuck. The self-produced banger of an album is full of introspective rhymes that still make you bounce. After a few listens, you'll start to realize why this city has a mural depicting this RVA hip hop legend. (HH)

Old punks never die -- they just get introspective. This EP from a veteran crew featuring members of Strike Anywhere and Landmines hits hard, mingling hardcore-punk rage with an undercurrent of melody and irreverent wit. “Maps” is the pensive singalong anthem; “Wig Out At Mojo’s” the insidejoke rager that only the old guys will get. The whole thing is great. (MN)

STUCK (AGM IMPERIAL)

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MORE PEACE (OVOLR/DEBACKLE)

In the three years since Natalie Prass made her debut on Spacebomb Records, she's been evolving as an artist -- and that evolution is clear from the very first listen to sophomore LP The Future And The Past. Having made her mark with the lush analog sounds of the Spacebomb house band backing her up, her new album finds her exploring some decidedly digital sounds. It is full of deep grooves that rely on R&B-style synths and an incredibly funky bass sound that could come straight off a Cameo or Gap Band album from the dawn of the 80s. With Prass's vocals added into the mix, there's a decided Janet Jackson vibe that creeps in, and I for one am not complaining. Prass’s frustration with the election of Donald Trump and the corresponding threats to women’s rights comes through powerfully in tracks like female-autonomy anthem “Ain’t Nobody” and ladies-first singalong “Sisters.” Add the unforgettable jam of a first single, "Short Court Style," and powerful ballad "Lost," and you get an album chock full of instant classics. It might not be quite what we expected from Prass, but it is certainly welcome. (MN)

SAW BLACK

WATER TOWER (CRYSTAL PISTOL)

One of the paradoxes of the creative life is that strength lies in vulnerability; Water Tower shows Saw Black’s intuitive mastery in this area. It’s incredibly strong, with evocative melodies and lyrics, yet the tone and vocal delivery feel strikingly raw. As “Mama Knows” puts it, “You hold your secrets close to your chest / I tell everyone.” We’re lucky he does. (DJ)

SPACEBOMB HOUSE BAND LIBRARY MUSIC I: NO SPACE HIGH ENOUGH (SPACEBOMB)

Beat tapes aren’t just for producers anymore. This cassette release finds the Spacebomb House Band stretching out, crafting instrumental grooves perfect for film soundtracks and chilled-out evenings. From effect-laden funk to experiments in dub reggae and soul jazz, this talented crew of studio musicians stays in the pocket and delivers the goods. MCs seeking beats, take note. (MN) RVA 2018 RVAMAGAZINE MAGAZINE33 31 || SUMMER WINTER 2017


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Invading the Narrative:

Aaron McIntosh’s Invasive Queer Kudzu Brings the Southern LGBTQ Experience to Wild, Weedy Life by Marilyn Drew Necci “I’m not usually this busy,” says Aaron McIntosh when I finally track him down at Baltimore’s School 33 Art Center. In the process of setting up the first public showing of his Invasive Queer Kudzu project, he’s been hard to pin down. It’s no surprise — the multi-layered installation of cloth leaves sewn together into quilts designed to look like kudzu vines is the culmination of three years’ work for McIntosh, an artist and professor in the Craft and Material Studies Department of VCU’s School Of The Arts, and he wants it to be perfect. Invasive Queer Kudzu is bigger than just McIntosh, though — it incorporates thousands of stories from the LGBTQ community of the American South. “The project tackles the intersectional ways that queerness and oppression function in the South,” McIntosh explains. “[It uses] kudzu as a metaphor to talk about exponentially growing queer stories across the South, invading the dominant Southern narratives that often don’t include stories like yours and mine.” To bring the project to fruition, McIntosh has spent the last three years crisscrossing the South; facilitating workshops, collecting stories from LGBTQ archives, and setting up booths at Pride festivals in cities all over the region. He has collected thousands of stories, in the form of kudzu leaves — enough to create a huge quilt of kudzu vines. Quilting comes naturally to him. “I’m a fourth-generation quilt-maker myself. All of the craft processes I grew up around were for the useful and the purposeful,” he says. But as he grew, McIntosh was drawn to a more artistic approach. “I got into making clothes, and initially wanted to go into fashion design,” he says. “I also painted in high school and am just as interested in painting and sculpture as I am in quilt making. I feel like my primary focus is hitting its stride, combining and conflating all of those things.” 16

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His decision to do so in the form of kudzu was inspired by his experience helping elderly relatives tend their gardens. “Pulling a lot of weeds, and being back in that space, that activity, with my family,” he says. “Particularly pulling things that I do know have nutritional value, and some people eat them in fancy salads, but my family pulls them and speaks of them in negative ways.” Kudzu is often discussed in negative ways, due to its tendency to overtake fields, trees, and even buildings, under the noses of unwary inhabitants. But McIntosh views it through a different lens. “These are plants,” he says. “Weeds have been here for eons; these are things that grow of their own natural volition. People grow and do things of their own natural volition. And culturally, there’s a framework for deciding what is different, and what is other.” The metaphor for queerness here is obvious. And that drew McIntosh in. “Since I was a child I’ve been interested in why something’s different,” he says. “The second I learn that it is, I want to know more. I think that’s the root of my queerness, the roots of my interest in being an artist in general, and my gravitation towards fiber arts — which are ‘wrong’ for my gender, to think in traditional norms.” Now that McIntosh, with essential help from volunteers, has assembled the many different contributions into vines, he’s taking the project’s public installations to the next level. For Invasive Queer Kudzu’s first appearance in Baltimore, McIntosh and volunteers assembled a nearly full-scale replica of Club Hippo — a now-defunct gay bar that opened in Baltimore in the late 70s — right in the middle of the gallery. “It’s built as a monument in memoriam to itself,” McIntosh says.

13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

“I’m excited most of all to bring different generations together.”

This is the ultimate aim of the Invasive Queer Kudzu project: “taking over problematic monuments to the South,” in McIntosh’s words. “That’s very loosely and broadly defined,” he explains. “When you think of a monument you probably think more readily of the Jefferson Davis monument [on Monument Ave] — or the Alabama State Capitol building, which is the former Confederate Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. Now I’m staring at the Club Hippo, which is a different kind of monument — a monument to a gay bar that is no longer.” In the coming years, McIntosh will be bringing site-specific installations to cities all over the South — and Richmond is next on the list. 1708 Gallery will host Invasive Queer Kudzu in 2019, when the vines will be reconfigured to cover an as-yet-unrevealed Richmond monument. McIntosh is also working on a project with Side By Side and the Visual Arts Center, to bring LGBTQ youth and their families together for what he calls “a really humongous queer quilting bee.” “I had always hoped that this project would highlight different queer organizations that are doing the same thing I’m doing, but with more tangible results,” McIntosh says. “What Side By Side is doing is in many ways more important than what I’m doing, and I’m really excited for the project to connect with these kinds of organizations.” “I’m excited most of all to bring different generations together,” he says. “That’s something that is really present in this project. You’re looking at archival documents from a queer past in the South, and all these contributions from people in the present. I think intergenerational queer activities are something we could all use right now.”

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Black Artists Claim Their Own Creative Space in Manchester by Chelsea Higgs Wise For black creatives living in Richmond, it’s not enough to follow the trends and changes in our ever-shifting city. The black artist faces the challenges posed by gentrification in a fight for survival against commercial erasure. The aesthetic and look of Richmond are part of a rising popularity that’s sparked infatuation with our collective creative energy. But what about the people who have been here, made it ripe for the picking, and who now struggle to get by? For black folks, organizing isn’t just for marches and confronting white supremacy on Monument Avenue, but an everyday practice to ensure economic justice when threatened by local government and corporate entities. Sometimes, it’s about establishing new spaces for black art, after gentrification and white angst have pushed us out of the neighborhoods where we once lived and worked. On Southside, in the Manchester neighborhood, community boosters formed the Manchester Manifest group to support and build up black art. Working with AJ Brewer at Brewer’s Cafe, they’ve brought back the First Friday Art Walk, an event which first began in Jackson Ward, to celebrate black music and visual arts from the local community. Black artists in Richmond are used to facing extraordinary challenges. When 6th District City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson proposed using city funds for public art to balance the budget, a measure that passed by a majority council despite opposition from Mayor Levar Stoney, it shocked Richmond’s white art community. For black artists, it was just another day of being undervalued and silenced. One of these artists, who goes by the name Silly Genius, said the “lack of support does not feel new.” He links the sprouting of the RVA brand with new challenges to black artists in Richmond; starting with First Friday, which began in Jackson Ward as a civic boost for black residents and businesses owners. Genius said that event has changed, in tone and audience, due to efforts by the city and Virginia Commonwealth University to create a more mainstream, trendy space for white outsiders. As First Friday became centered on a part of Broad Street that was eventually officially classified as “the Arts District,” police presence increased, the area became viewed as more dangerous, and the original art walk was shut down. 18

Genius said First Friday may have become “easier to swallow” for the city, but “the shift left an impact on local artists.” It’s just another example of a city that uses the energy of its black population to appeal to white visitors. Artist Justice Dwight said the problem also happened with individual galleries not taking an intentional approach to include local artists. “Spaces are almost like a secret. There’s no info out there [about] where to find these spaces for artists. While some spaces are obviously moving forward, some still seem to have quotas. Meet those, and move on,” Dwight said. RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


Working with AJ Brewer at Brewer’s Cafe, they’ve brought back the First Friday Art Walk, an event which first began in Jackson Ward, to celebrate black music and visual arts from the local community.

13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

Muralist Jay Bordeaux has his own story of facing racism as an artist in Richmond. After being hired for a mural, he saw it pulled down almost as quickly as it went up. The problem: The work depicted a black man. “I was doing a nautical theme mural, I wasn’t specifically asked to do anything that was cartoony. When [the client] initially viewed the work, and said it scared him, I was confused at his fear because the sketch was a man in a field with butterflies,” Bordeaux said. Despite the beauty of his work, the man said he “didn’t want any Nelson Mandela faces or black power fists on the piece. But I wasn’t drawing Nelson Mandela, I was drawing a man, who was black. He had the full lips, wide nose and pronounced black features. The hand wasn’t closed, it was open and there were butterflies. It took a second to hear what he said... well, what he was really saying. He was saying that a black man, in any form, is scary. I am a black man, being told not to draw black men.” These experiences illustrate why organizing in black spaces is vital to the survival of black art as well as black creative minds. Receiving messages that your body invokes fear and is generally unaccepted in your own city is what keeps black folks in a silent rage. The cure for this rage is to enter a space made for black folks, by black folks, where the silence turns into the sounds of laughter and home. Historically, one space that has supported the innovation of black events and culture free from gentrification is the barbershop. By the early 1900s, barbering and the men’s grooming industry became the hub of learning and produced unprecedented wealth and opportunities for black men during some of the toughest eras in modern history. If we are watching and listening carefully, we can see how this is manifesting in Richmond. Chatting with black artists, creatives, and go-getters, the Brand New Wave barbershop was a place continually mentioned as a place to get a haircut, but also to share ideas. Brand New Wave is a barbershop on Hull Street owned and operated by J. Bizz, who is also a musician who hosts events in the city. What happens in the shop is more than expression of hair and socializing of friends; it is also a place to organize the community. When J. Bizz meets with clients, he hears their interests and what they want to see in their neighborhood, which is how the RVA Ball for a Cause Charity Basketball Game at the Ben Wallace Gym has come together. For two years, the event has raised funds for the youth of Richmond Public Schools. J. Bizz uses a team approach, gathering clients, business owners, artists, and friends to play a pretty decent game of basketball. It provides a fun day for the community with food, entertainment, and resources, but also a stage for local musicians to promote their art. Brand New Wave gives more than hair; it gives hope of new pathways for creatives in the city. That hope needs molding, planning, and execution to help artists overcome challenges that appear insurmountable. Alex Gwynn, a creative who has lived in Richmond since 2011 and works with J. Bizz, said that creating a team to showcase art for the world means creating a whole network of support within a community. The challenge is that everyone is working with limited resources of space, supplies, and promotion. But at the end of the day, the artistic community is coming together to make it happen. Through venues like Brewer’s Cafe and the Manchester Manifest group, the same energy that started First Friday in Jackson Ward is keeping spaces for black artists alive, long past the quota that limits our participation on Broad Street. images clockwise from top left drawing by Jay Bordeaux / movie posters by Silly Genius for his podcast (with Dahm) we should write that... / album cover for The Prenup by J. Bizz / photos of J. Bizz in the neighborhood and at his barbershop Brand New Wave (barbershop photo by Landon Shroder) 19


PHOTO BY ZACHARY NORRIS

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Inka Essenhigh, Fairy Procession, 2016. 78x80 inches, oil and enamel on panel. Courtesy of the Artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY Inka Essenhigh, Fairy Procession, 2016. 78x80 inches, oil and enamel on panel. Courtesy of the Artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY

OPENINGRECEPTION RECEPTION OPENING MARCH 16, 2018 MARCH 16, 2018 InkaEssenhigh: Essenhigh: A Fine Line Inka A Fine Line New 2018* NewWaves Waves 2018

*Accepting submissions from from *Accepting submissions Virginia artists through Jan Virginia artists through8Jan

ARTOF OF NOW NOW THTH E EART 13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

VirginiaMOCA.org | 757-425-0000 | Virginia Beach 21

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Inside the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Richmond by Landon Shroder

As the one year anniversary of Charlottesville rapidly approaches, the phrase “domestic terrorism” will inevitably be on everyone’s mind. Virginia experienced something deeply traumatic last summer when white supremacist James Fields, Jr., drove his car into a group of anti-fascists, killing Heather Heyer and wounding thirty others. There is a familiarity to the attack that makes it almost routine, as it mirrors similar strikes on the streets of Europe by extremists aligned with the Islamic State. Understanding the incident as an act of domestic terrorism might seem obvious. The phrase is reflective of what happened on August 12, 2017, and the FBI even defines domestic terrorism as an act inspired by individuals or groups who “espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” 22

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“Domestic terrorism is defined in the U.S. criminal code, but is not criminalized in the U.S. criminal code. It is a thornier issue, probably more than one might immediately suspect.”

Fields seems to tick all of those boxes. He was, after all, a white supremacist who radicalized and conducted an act of violence based on an extremist ideology. Case closed? Sometimes things are not so obvious, though, not when legal phrases like domestic terrorism are used. Virginia has recently prosecuted domestic terrorism cases against white supremacists, most of which have been investigated by the FBI. This also includes the events in Charlottesville carried out by Fields. Some of these cases have been visible, while others get investigated and prosecuted behind the scenes. With the anniversary of the Charlottesville tragedy drawing near, RVA Mag wanted to understand what domestic terrorism really is, and how these cases have been investigated in Virginia — both to gain clarity on what happened last August, and to understand how the FBI seeks to prevent future acts of violence. To do this, we spent time at the FBI field office in Richmond, where agents oversee investigations in 82 of Virginia’s 95 counties. We interviewed the special agent in charge, case agents who closed domestic terrorism cases, and the head of the Joint Terrorism Task Force; all of which led to our participation in a two-month long civilian training academy with agents from the main investigative units. What became obvious during our time spent with the FBI was the complex legal challenges associated with investigating crimes that might be considered domestic terrorism. “Domestic terrorism is defined in the U.S. criminal code, but is not criminalized in the U.S. criminal code,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Adam Lee, during our first interview to talk about these cases. “It is a thornier issue, probably more than one might immediately suspect.” Put simply: There is no such thing as a domestic terrorist in the U.S. A person or group can be investigated under the pretense of committing an act of domestic terrorism, but cannot be prosecuted for an act of domestic terrorism. Understanding this strange legal contradiction became the starting point in trying to make sense of the “nexus” — a term we heard frequently at the FBI — of the way domestic terrorism cases are investigated and, ultimately, what crime they get prosecuted for. A career agent with almost 20 years field experience, Lee was interviewed by President Trump to succeed James Comey as the FBI Director. But for those under his command he White supremacist, is simply referred to as “the boss” — a term of Robert Curtis Doyle. respect, but also one of endearment. 13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

Sensing our confusion, but also acknowledging how our own misperceptions overestimate what the FBI’s capabilities actually are, Lee tried to clarify the “thorniness” around the question of domestic terrorism. “We investigate the hate groups as we would any other group; street gangs or organized crime,” Lee said, adding that the motivations of these groups are secondary to “their plots, plans, and schemes, and if they involved criminal conduct.” Special Agent Jim Rudisill investigated one such domestic terrorism case against a hate group out of Chesterfield County that was planning on attacking minority groups. Rudisill is an operator in the classic sense: serious, but also cool, a former Army veteran who is the resident bomb technician. Speaking with a Southern drawl, he said his case started in an unlikely place. “The information was by way of a contact in Newport News City Jail… of all places.” Rudisill said one of the inmates approached a guard with information about a group of guys who “wanted to start a race war.” The white supremacists, who referred to themselves as the ominous-sounding “Hammer Bearers,” maintained an ideology that originated with Odin, the principal deity in Norse mythology — a common religious identification for some white supremacists. Led by a man named Robert Curtis Doyle, the group was comprised of individuals who met in Virginia prisons, breeding grounds for extremism of all stripes. Together, they planned to attack Jewish synagogues and black churches. Agents that investigate domestic terrorism in Richmond’s field office fall under an inter-agency program called the Joint Terrorism Task Force, referred to as the JTTF. After 9/11, disrupting terrorism became the number one priority for the FBI, which led to the creation of 56 JTTFs nationally, as a partnership between various federal and state agencies. In Richmond, this is headed by Special Agent Brad Elder. And this is where the investigation into the Hammer Bearers started. Elder is well known in the bureau. In August 2016 — from a tip originating in Virginia only 60 hours prior — he spearheaded an international investigation against a man inspired by the Islamic State to conduct a suicide attack in Canada. The suspect, Aaron Driver, was eventually killed during the takedown by the Royal Canadian Mounties, while on his way to detonate his explosive vest in downtown Ontario. 23


Sitting down for interviews on three different occasions, including the interview with Rudisill, Elder walked us through how domestic terrorism cases are initiated; but not before reinforcing the “thorny” issue that Lee talked about, reminding us, “you can’t be a domestic terrorist” in the U.S. Initial FBI investigations, called “guardians,” are a heavily-restricted assessment focused on protecting constitutional rights. “This is to protect the population,” Elder said, referring to the internal restrictions. “We start with the least intrusive means possible.” Given the potential for violence, the investigation against the Hammer Bearers escalated out of the guardian stage quickly. To finance their plan they planned to kidnap, rob, and kill a silver dealer they met over Craigslist; part of the plan included bleeding him out in his own bathtub. “If there is a threat to life, we have to make him aware,” Rudisill said of the potential victim. “Very little time transpired before we knocked on his door and let him know what was going on.” Seeing an opportunity in this development, the agents started introducing ways to place their own undercover assets in the vicinity of the white supremacists. While Rudisill couldn’t talk about undercover tradecraft, he acknowledged part of the process was to create “separation between the real silver dealer and Doyle,” the leader of the Hammer Bearers, to minimize danger to the dealer. “I seized on the opportunity to put one of us in harm’s way, as opposed to the real [dealer].” Elder described the situation as one that might have led to a “catastrophic event,” which even the case agents were not prepared for. “A lot of office resources [were used] on this case, because it was moving so fast,” Elder said. “They already had firearms and ammunition, body armor, and some incendiary devices. At that point we had to move in and make the arrest.” When asked how worried he was that the Hammer Bearers would actually be able to carry out a complex plan that included kidnapping, murder, precious metals, and attacking synagogues and black churches, Rudisill responded, deadpan, “Very worried.” He recalled a chilling quote from Doyle. “Doyle said that he wanted to do something bigger than Charleston,” referring to the killing of eight black church goers by Dylann Roof in 2015, just a few months before the Hammer Bearers investigation began. When the JTTF decides to pursue an investigation as an act of domestic terrorism, they work off of a metric that takes into account three factors: federal law violations, the chance of violence, and the social and political goals which link these things together. Bringing this around to the Hammer Bearers, Elder pointed out, “They were going to kill people, which is a

federal violation.” He continued, “They were targeting synagogues and black churches and using violence of force… the three prongs met there.” This is where the case of the Hammer Bearers diverges from the incident by Fields in Charlottesville. While he was a white supremacist, his actions were not premeditated, as they were not part of a network that was engaged in a larger conspiracy to target groups based on an ideology. Said another way: Fields was an asshole who, in the heat of the moment, committed a series of crimes, one of which was murder. He also denied the anti-fascists and counter-protesters their civil rights, a charge that can often be used in cases like these. It was announced in June that Fields Jr. will be indicted with a federal hate crime in the killing of Heather Heyer, racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity, and 28 other counts of hate crime acts. This is the “thorny” issue. Regardless of their seniority, every special agent interviewed was conscious of the danger of overstep when investigating domestic terrorism. The ambiguity between being an effective investigator and protecting constitutional rights is a perpetual struggle, and the FBI runs an international division dedicated to assessing the potential for civil rights violations within their investigations. This past January, Delegate Marcia Price from Newport News, supported by Attorney General Mark Herring, introduced legislation that would give Virginia the ability to prosecute suspects for terrorism — including domestic terrorism — independent of the FBI. At the time, Herring told RVA Mag the bill was intended to combat the threat from violent white supremacy after Charlottesville. The legislation faced strong opposition, and ultimately failed. In a statement, the Virginia ACLU cited a history of overreach and politicization of terrorism, concluding, “We therefore have serious concerns about the First Amendment risks that come from government branding groups with unpopular beliefs as terrorist and criminal.” It’s not hard to imagine what form overreach could take. The FBI has a sordid history of running counter-intelligence operations against activists during the civil rights era, including attempts to disrupt and discredit the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., under a program called COINTELPRO that ran for 15 years. Mary McCord, the senior litigator for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and at Georgetown University Law Center, referred to this and other abuses when speaking to RVA Mag about the “thorny issue” of prosecuting domestic terrorism. “The designation of domestic terrorist groups could lead to increased use of legal authorities to target certain people for ideological or political reasons,” McCord said. She explained that labelling individuals as domestic terrorists could violate constitutional protections.

The ambiguity between being an effective investigator and protecting constitutional rights is a perpetual struggle, and the FBI runs an international division dedicated to assessing the potential for civil rights violations within their investigations.

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Lee, deeply aware of the potential, commented dryly, “Those are issues our agency grapples with.” The Hammer Bearers investigation was brought to completion in around three months; investigative warp speed by FBI standards. Doyle eventually pled guilty to charges that included conspiracy to “affect commerce by robbery” and “unlawful possession” of a firearm. The charge carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. While his group was investigated by the JTTF, he was ultimately charged for crimes associated with his conspiracy, not domestic terrorism, since no such charge exists. Nonetheless, the punishment was appropriate to the act. The phrase “domestic terrorism” is an easy term to use in post-Charlottesville America, where the threat from white supremacy is being mainstreamed. But one person’s terrorist is another person’s hero, and the only difference between the two for law enforcement may be where you are standing at the time. The FBI is far from perfect. They’ve made mistakes — even launched investigations against activists that have turned up flat — but they’ve also taken down the Hammer Bearers, saving the lives of black church-goers and Jewish worshippers. Regardless, they don’t want the power to label Americans as “terrorists,” and human rights and privacy groups agree with them.

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At the end of our final interview, we asked Rudisill what he’d say to young people about the FBI’s domestic terrorism investigations in Virginia. No-nonsense as always, he said, “We are seeking to disrupt people that would do others harm, regardless of what their ideology is. This case, [Hammer Bearers] and how we advanced it and prosecuted it, is a good example of how demographics make no difference to us. What interests us is the active threat of violence. I don’t care what you look like or what you are yammering on about.” And the fight continues.

Adam Lee, the Special Agent in Charge of the Richmond Field Office, which oversees 82 counties in Virginia.

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mercurial shapeshifter The Otherworldly Paintings of Inka Essenhigh

by David Streever 28

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Inka Essenhigh was already a success when she

left behind enamels for oil paints. It was a bold move for an artist whose work was already commanding high prices at auction, but her willingness to change when others might rest on their laurels has led to 20 years of work that still feels novel and original. Just as varied as her technique are the subjects: cosmic entities, fairies, contemporary figures, nature gods and goddesses, even anthropomorphic structures. They fill oversized canvases, inviting the viewer to step into the unique worlds she creates. Despite the variety, one aspect that flows through all her work is a superbly illustrative, arabesque line. It’s a technique that comes out of an unintentional influence on her work. “I always wanted to be a high artist. Picasso, the Impressionists,” Essenhigh told me, speaking by phone from her studio in New York City. “Even at five years old, younger, I always had my eye on high art.” While she was passionate about traditional art, she also grew up steeped in the pop culture of the 1970s and ‘80s. She said her upbringing was “typical” for “a kid in Columbus, Ohio, in a white suburb. There was just tons of Dungeons & Dragons, Heavy Metal magazine, Mad Magazine. I read a lot of Mad Magazine. That stuff was just so in the air, I feel like that’s where I came from.” Her work reflects both worlds, but her lines most reveal the pop influences. The fluid, stylized line that runs through her art calls to mind 1930s Disney cartoons or the fantasy worlds of Ralph Bakshi, particularly when she uses enamels. It’s something she “sometimes felt ashamed of,” she admitted, but she’s come to embrace it. “I think there’s something valuable in it,” she said. “Why do our brains make up these little fantasies? Is there something useful to it? Can we engage with it to find a better way to live, for the health of our bodies, for the health of our climate?” That distinctive line is bold and thick in her early work, from the late 90s through 2001, but her latest work, a blend of enamel and oil paints, uses a thinner, quicker, more fluid approach to her linework. She said it’s just an evolution in her technique, part of finding her way. “When I’m stylizing like that, it’s very art nouveau,” she explained. “I feel like I’m conducting a musical symphony, in this abstract kind of way. I’m making the same kind of movement again and again. There’s a big swoop here, a little swoop there.” It’s also the material, she said, pointing to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. “People don’t think of [him] when they see my work,” she said. “[But] his drip paintings are all enamels. It gets a certain rhythm.” Despite her success with enamel, she shifted to oil paintings around 2002. Part of her shift was for health reasons — the enamels are very toxic — but an even bigger factor was her desire to try something new. With oils, she can create layers, employing what she called the “great trick of painting, where you get to create an illusion of a world that you can walk into.” By contrast, she said, “Those early enamel paintings, you don’t really think that you’re going to walk into them. You can enjoy those shapes on a decorative level, but it doesn’t give you the kind of experience of looking at a photograph and imagining you’re there. I love that kind of storytelling.” She also felt she’d done what she wanted to do with the enamels, particularly in the subject matter. “In the early 90s, I set out to make something that really reflected the times, that gave a look to the times,” she said. “Not to be cocky or anything, but I did that. I found a way to make paintings that talked about the issues of that time, like the Internet, artificial

13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

left Arrows of Fear (2002) oil on panel, 74 x 70" above Political Cartoon Painting (2016) enamel on panel, 60 x 60" next spread Fairy Procession (2016) oil and enamel on wood, 78 x 80" last spread Daphne and Apollo (2012) oil on canvas, 80 x 72½"

intelligence, boob jobs and plastic surgery, and DNA and stem cell research, all those aspects of fake living.” Even in oil, though, she would return to contemporary themes. Two 2005 works, “Shopping” and “Subway,” depict round, grey figures navigating modern life, but elements of myth and nature appear as well, in paintings like “Pegasus” (2001) as well as in “Gray Wave” and “Green Wave,” both painted in 2002. These works were part of a period during which Essenhigh said she had “decided I was going to go do something else, find out about me, and make works that are more personal and meaningful.” By 2006, she’d start to shift yet again, when her paintings became rounder, softer, and focused on nature. “Green Goddess I” (2009) is one of the later example of these works. I first saw it at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, in a 29-work show consisting of paintings made from 2006 to 2016. During my visit, I spoke to Curator Heather Hakimzadeh, who said she was drawn to the bravery in Essenhigh’s work. “She’s a painter’s painter,” she said. “She’s continually re-navigating her relationship to painting. She’s continuing to explore; she’s willing to take risks.” Works from this period are particularly beautiful. One of the stand-out examples, though, is “Moon and Tide”, a 2010 oil painting on canvas, depicting an enormous figure rising out of coastal waters and cradling a brilliantly yellow moon.

“There was just tons of Dungeons & Dragons, Heavy Metal Magazine, Mad Magazine. I read a lot of Mad Magazine. That stuff was just so in the air, I feel like that’s where I came from.” 29


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“She puts beauty in her work,” Hakimzadeh said. “We’ve gotten very cynical towards beauty in art. But she’s realized when she’s creating these worlds, she’s putting a certain energy into the canvas, and she wants it to be positive. She wants the world to be better as a result of her work.” About the many shifts in tone, paint, and surfaces, the mercurial Essenhigh said she “didn’t want to make paintings that were all the same for the rest of my life,” returning to a sort of core belief she’d shared with me earlier. “One of my beliefs is that when you are making a painting, everything that you believe in, all your thoughts, can be read in the paint.” Another belief driving her changes is that, “even if it was unconscious,” a viewer can see when “people are copying them-selves for the sake of a style.” She brought up the pop artist Jeff Koons as an example. “I like [his] ‘Puppy,’ I think it’s great whenever I see it, but this is not a heartfelt, sincere, one-persongiving-their-heart-on-a-platter type of painting, which is what I wanted to do.” Her focus on nature deepened over the years, especially after she built a studio in Maine with her husband, in 2008. They’d first started going to Maine in 2007, when she painted the tall yellow grasses and autumnal trees of “Yellow Fall,” but after the studio, her subjects widened to wild images of god-like, primordial sea and forest entities. As a New England native, these pieces make me long for home, recasting childhood memories of mediocre summer vacations spent on cold, hard beaches as treasured moments. Recent work hearkens back to her early illustrative style, but with a twist; she’s blended in oil paints to keep the layered illusion of depth. The new work looks as edgy and contemporary as her ‘90s pieces, but she said that even the seemingly political “Political Cartoon Painting,” painted in 2016, was not inspired by then-candidate Donald Trump’s unlikely campaign and even more surprising victory. Of course she’s influenced by the world around her, she admitted, but she maintained that politics don’t enter into her work, because she “turned off the news sometime around when we went into Iraq and Afghanistan.” She was disturbed by the national bloodthirst, and opted out of watching, even though, she says, “My husband, he’s a painter, wanted to go to the war and paint it.” In 2006, with him going overseas, “I turned off the news and

I’ve never really turned it back on. Of course I know what’s going on, I do the obligatory march or whatever, but you really don’t need to watch the news. It’s a total addiction.” If the work looks current, she said it’s the material, more than anything in the evening news. “It’s the enamel that’s always been more about the times and events,” she said. “It’s more immediate, self-conscious, because it’s more poppy. You can get more context in it. It’s not about air, space; it’s about things.” When it comes to “Political Cartoon Painting,” she said, “It means nothing, honestly. There’s a guy in the middle, on a tribal sort of throne with ties — corporate ties, school ties — all around him. He’s presiding over a swamp; it’s half Club Med, half refugee camp, with some kind of charging…bull coming at him. It doesn’t mean anything, though. I go back to enamel, and things are much more political again, it all looks more contemporary.” Essenhigh is the rare serious artist who is also prolific on Instagram, where she posts close-ups of selected works, occasional snapshots from those “obligatory marches,” and many in-progress pictures. Essenhigh said she loved Instagram, which she called a “Democratizer.” She added, “It actually gets art out there to other audiences. I think it’s bringing the high art world down to everybody, and everybody to the high art world.” From an artist who is constantly in flux, her sole lament about art on social media is unsurprising. “It can make the work too familiar,” she said. “When I post too much of my own work, and people go to see it, all they can do is recognize it. It’s like the Mona Lisa. Are you really going to have an art experience with this thing? You’ve seen it a billion times, you can’t come to it new and fresh. It’s burned into the back of your eyeballs. All you can do is recognize it; say, ‘Yep, there it is!’” In that respect, the small size of Instagram images works for an artist whose pieces can fill up a seven-square-foot canvas. “Art has to take you off guard somehow, so I’m glad there’s at least some difference between seeing it online and seeing it in person,” she said. After seeing ten years of her work in Virginia Beach, it seemed natural to ask her about the next ten. “The next ten years are going to be with enamel,” she said. “I’ve learned how to make it more three-dimensional. I feel like I’ve gotten better at blending the two worlds together. I found what I was looking for, and I’ve brought it back.”

“I found a way to make paintings that talked about the issues of that time, like the Internet, artificial intelligence, boob jobs and plastic surgery, and DNA and stem cell research, all those aspects of fake living.”

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OCCUPATION APPALACH When pipeline construction threatened their homes and farms, these families were left with one option: civil disobedience. by Madelyne Ashworth / photos by Landon Shroder

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“They had no right to come through here and pick land they knew they wouldn’t get much fight from,” Red Terry said. “Older people, retiring people. We’ve had this land pretty much natural for seven generations, and we want to keep it that way.”

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“i miss my house. I really would not have traded it for a piece

of plywood if this were not important,” shouted Red Terry, high above her property in a tree-sit on Bent Mountain this past April. Theresa “Red” Terry lives in an “active crime scene,” according to law enforcement. Along with other activists, she and her daughter, Minor Terry, are seeking to prevent construction of a 300-mile long, 42-inch wide natural gas pipeline that would cut through Jefferson National Forest. They took to the trees after an ongoing four-year legal battle that climaxed this January when a federal judge ruled in favor of Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, clearing the way for pipeline construction. “Most people [the pipeline] was affecting have been busy doing lawful things for three years, and it’s gotten them nowhere,” Red said. “When they gave the permission to cut on my property, that’s when I decided to go up [the tree]. It’s gotten attention a lot faster than doing things the right way.” Red and Minor were found in contempt of court for their protest, and have been charged with three misdemeanors, including impeding work and trespassing. Living on separate tree platforms in two different locations, they are both near the creek that runs through their property. The pipeline company claims their protest halted tree cutting, but the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has forbidden MVP to cut trees within 75 feet of any waterway for the season due to the spawning season of the Roanoke logperch, a federally-designated endangered species. “If I weren’t here, they would cut anyway,” Minor said. She’s the seventh-generation landowner on the Terry property. Both state police and Global Security, a private firm hired by MVP, share a tent while camping outside the tree sits. The women are issued state-provided food, which includes two bologna sandwiches, a bag of apple juice, water, and two cookies–food described as meeting all their ‘nutritional needs.’ The protests gave MVP grounds to request an extension to DEQ’s original tree cutting deadline of March 31 to May 31, which DEQ and other federal agencies granted. Originally, this deadline was set to protect bat and migratory bird habitats. “The path that this pipeline will be going through, the terrain is unreal,” Minor said. “It’s steep slopes, mountain sides, waterways, creeks and streams, and wetlands. And some of these slopes are too steep to even stand on, and they want to bring in machinery and blast through it and bury a giant pipeline.” According to Dr. Hearst Kastning, a karst landscape expert, pipeline leaks are likely to occur due to the high degree of seismic activity in this region of Appalachia. Landslides are also common here, and Kastning says they’re likely to increase when the trees preventing erosion are removed. “Karst in general is one of the most sensitive landscapes in the environment. In a karst landscape, there are a lot of fractures and openings,” Kastning said. “Caves allow a lot of water to go through, fast, and unfiltered. Because of that, if the pipeline goes over karst, there are no guarantees it will be alright, because we don’t know where it will redirect the water… Once operational, if it springs a leak, or breaks, that would contaminate the groundwater for quite a distance.” On Carolyn Reilly’s property, a working farm in Franklin County, an anonymous group has taken to the trees to protect her land. Reilly, a longtime pipeline fighter, faces contempt of court charges for allowing them to remain. “We call ourselves grass farmers,” Reilly said about her property, where she’s trying to improve soil quality through traditional agricultural practices.

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She contrasted that with MVP, describing them as “extractive, and all about claiming space.” She said MVP is “working it to death and then moving on. That doesn’t honor life at all.” The Reillys and the Terrys have been fighting the MVP for the past three and a half years, engaging in government meetings, community forums, and an endless string of lawsuits. Both families are part of individual lawsuits against FERC and state agencies, as well as group lawsuits through organizations like Bold Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. The process is long and messy. “Bringing these appeals is a relatively recent development,” said Carolyn Elefant, the pipeline lawyer for Bold Alliance. “There had always been a handful of challenges to certificates over the last 20 years, but generally parties didn’t have resources, or they just gave in to the project. It’s really only been in the past five years these cases have started to go forward.” Many of these lawsuits have no precedent, making for a new legal environment. The process for companies is becoming more tedious, since in addition to receiving a certificate from FERC, the section 401 water quality test from the state Water Control Board, and approval from the Forest Service, they are being met with lawsuits from almost every impacted landowner. While this may be a headache for companies like EQT Midstream Partners, partners involved with MVP; or Dominion, who controls the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project; it poses more serious challenges to rural landowners who lack the resources to fight back. Elefant said the bias favors construction, since, “when a court looks at the decision, it presumes that the agency ruling is correct, and it tends to defer to many of the factual determinations that the agency made.” Even when alternate routes are proposed, she said, “the court is going to assume that FERC’s decision was probably right based on its expertise.” RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


left Landowners occupy shelters in the trees above their land in protest of the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposed for construction in Franklin County, Virginia. previous spread Activists camp out to prevent companies from beginning work on the MVP. In 2016, protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation highlighted the power that corporations wield in these interactions. While the MVP does not disrupt Native American land, the proposed pipeline will cause irreparable damage to woodlands and historic farmlands, in an area as sparsely populated as Standing Rock. “They had no right to come through here and pick land they knew they wouldn’t get much fight from,” Red Terry said. “Older people, retiring people. We’ve had this land pretty much natural for seven generations, and we want to keep it that way.” Energy companies have continually targeted populations that lack widespread social power. They are small, agrarian communities that feel ignored by their political representatives and lack the resources to stop a project headed by large corporations, many of which donate to Virginia’s political parties. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Governor Northam has accepted over $199,251 from Dominion alone, something that critics say suggests government bias. “DEQ has a history of aligning with industry over the public interest, and that was no more clear than in the agency’s industry-friendly handling of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline permits in 2017,” Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager with Appalachian Voices, said in a statement. Last year, former Governor McAuliffe signed a $58 million mitigation plan with Dominion, releasing them from any potential damages to Virginia’s forests by the ACP, while Governor Northam remains passive toward pipeline questions, and publicly reprimanded Red Terry for her protest. Elefant predicts these cases will go to the Supreme Court. In addition to the constitutionality of a private corporation using eminent domain, several other new legal issues are introduced, such as the environmental impact inflicted by this project. “This has been happening for generations,” Reilly said. “This whole country was founded on taking what belongs to other people. I feel like this is corporate colonization happening.” 13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

in may, the terrys had their court dates, almost a month after Red and Minor took to the trees. “I don’t understand how industry can look at these plans, look at whatever information that’s been given to them, and thought this was a good idea,” Minor said. “They thought this was going to be safe, that the damage would be minimal. I’m angry. I’m so angry.” The tree sitters believe the lengths they have gone to protect the land are absolutely necessary. They have endured rain, high winds, freezing temperatures, snow, heat, constant interrogation, police surveillance, and really bad bologna sandwiches. “We need to be clear with ourselves that this structure of law enforcement is to serve this company over the power of the people,” said a Reilly property tree sitter, who went by the pseudonym Alex. “I know that this is a way, at least for a time, to stop the construction. They’re getting scared now.” U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Dillon found the Terrys in contempt of court and ordered them to evacuate their trees by midnight the next Saturday. If they did not comply, they would be fined $1,000 per day – fines that would be given directly to MVP, LLC. Red’s husband, Coles Terry III, was fined $2,000 for being in contempt for supporting his wife and daughter. MVP lawyers told the judge that the delays caused by the Terrys so far have cost the pipeline more than $15,000, and that security efforts around the tree-sitting zones cost more than $25,000. MVP’s construction manager testified the alleged financial damages would grow exponentially if crews could not finish tree clearing by the May 31 deadline. “There are more ways to fight,” Alex said. “Determined people, organized people can still do something. We have our voice, we have each other, and if we wedge those things in the right places, new possibilities can be born.” Even after the ruling was reached, Alex and the others remained on the Reilly property until the end of May. “If you look closely enough, if you are really present, then you can find the whole world here,” Alex said. “Defending this place is about that, but there is a global context here. This is a farm and a family that have built their livelihood here.” Carolyn and her husband have done everything they could to protect their land and their farm from a corporate enterprise, not only affecting their lives and their children’s lives, but the entire community around them. Eminent domain has stripped them of that right, while the Reillys have to worry whether they will be able to continue farming, out of fear for their soil and waterways. Hundreds of miles away, men in a corporate office in Pittsburgh have permanently affected the way a little girl sees the world. “It’s totally permeated every pore of our family,” said Reilly, mother of four, who now worries for her children’s future due to legal costs imposed by the court after a guilty ruling. “She’s eight, our youngest. She’s known this since she was five. This is all she’s known. Her whole perspective is based on, ‘Are you for or against the pipeline?’ She’ll ask me, ‘That person you were just talking to, are they for or against it? What do they think about it?’ Basically, are they for us or are they not for us? Where do they stand with us?” The Reillys, the Terrys and hundreds of other landowners continue to fight both the ACP and the MVP. Both projects continue to face considerable obstacles, such as mid-May storms, which prompted DEQ to cite environmental violations and halt construction due to severe erosion that would pollute waterways. MVP predicts the project will be complete by fall of 2018. 39


The

Word &

THE BOOK Faith and Hip-Hop Intersect at Virginia Union by Hip Hop Henry / photos by Branden Wilson

40

hip hop is more than the cliché money, hoes, and clothes. Students at Virginia Union University are peeling back the layers of the 45-year old art form, and discovering that faith and religion are an important part of the music. The collegiate focus is only the latest transformation in how American culture views hip hop. From block parties in New York City to worldwide phenomenon, to the halls of academia, hip hop has come a long way. Although Howard University offered the first hip hop class in 1991, it’s gone from a niche topic to something taught even at Ivy League schools like Harvard University, where Nas and 9th Wonder hold fellowships. In our region, classes range from 9th Wonder’s hip-hop class at North Carolina Central University to a course co-taught by RVA’s Mad Skillz at the University of Richmond. While 9th Wonder and Mad Skillz focus on the music — Skillz even brought in Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee this spring — Virginia Union University is all about the faith. Rapper Ricky Parker had the idea in 2016, while doing research on hip hop courses from North Carolina to New York City. “I was just really trying to figure out, what am I going to do at Union? You know, what is Union’s story?” he said. Ultimately, it was the theology department and religious foundation of Union, a Baptist-affiliated school, that he thought a hip-hop course could highlight. Union is one of many Historically Black Colleges and Universities, schools founded with Christian affiliations where legendary rappers like DJ Red Alert and Das EFX, along with present-day stars like DJ Envy or Wale, earned their degrees. Parker worked with Dr. Carleitta Paige-Anderson, Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research, to develop curriculum for students learning about the intersections of faith and hip hop. “It’s like almost two cultures, that exist at this school. You have an undergraduate HBCU culture,” Parker said, describing this first group as being overwhelmingly into hip hop and contemporary rap. About the second group, he said, “Then you have the faith component… the mix of people that are looking to start churches, missionaries, that come here to get an education, too.” The class serves as a way to integrate the two interests across the campus, bringing secular students and ordination-track theology students together. One of the marquee events for the independent hip hop studies program took place last spring when Gene Thornton, the rapper known as No Malice of the legendary hip hop duo The Clipse, came to campus as a guest lecturer. On the phone, Thornton told me that came about through Parker. “He put it together and, I’m trying to think of how that actually fell in my lap, but I knew it was home, and it was about faith and hip hop in Virginia Union,” he said.

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Union is one of many Historically Black Colleges and Universities, schools founded with Christian affiliations where legendary rappers like DJ Red Alert and Das EFX, along with presentday stars like DJ Envy or Wale, earned their degrees. “They had asked me about what I thought about faith in hiphop,” Thornton remembered, describing it as “a great opportunity.” The experience was a good one, he said, adding, “I got a chance to come and tell my truth.” Another event pulled in Greg Carden II, a Richmond-based rapper known as Radio B. He spoke about his latest album, Jesus Never Wore A Suit, sharing the deeper meanings behind the work. “It’s an escape from forced doctrine,” he said, explaining that culture ties the idea of being a grown man to wearing expensive professional clothing. “My response to that was, you know, Jesus never wore a suit.” It’s about more than clothing, though. “That can be universal,” he said. “The idea is that the perception that we apply to certain images, especially something like a suit, that there’s an advanced level of professionalism, ethics, intelligence, that doesn’t necessarily apply to what someone has on. It’s more about overall perceptions that we put up to cover up our insecurities and to put our best image forward.” Hip hop has always had a message to the music, and each of the rappers I spoke with had different words to impart to the students at Virginia Union. Radio B wanted to encourage them to think about more than a safe career path. “Being a creative person that stepped out independently from my job to chase my passions, I think that’s important for students to see. A lot of students get into school … but their goals are based around, you know, something that they were told they should do.” Other students, he said, are stuck, not getting anywhere, and his message was slightly different for them. “Everyone has something that you’re drawn to,” he said. “Maybe not a passion, because they haven’t put enough time into it or given it enough interest or fed it enough. But I felt like it was important for me to be able to speak to them from that position, to give them some perspective on approaching their dreams.” No Malice had a more straightforward message, centered on his faith in a creator-figure. “You must be born again,” he said. “Who gave you your talent, gave you hip hop? Who gave you communication skills? You know, everything you do. You talk about. You rap about. Or creative gifts and talent — where does that come from? We tend to have this thing where we worship the creation more than the creator. You know, you can’t just start with the creation, and start rapping. You have to start with the creator, first and foremost.” Talking about faith in hip hop brings up childhood memories for most of us, too. Parker and Radio B both said that rap and hip hop came into conflict with their family faiths.

13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

“my mom was a sunday school teacher, and my older cousin is a pastor,” Radio B said. “I spent a lot of time in church, between those two influences.” Growing up in “the golden era of hip hop” was his second major influence, he said, which led to a “balancing act between the two.” Radio B managed to find a way to keep his faith and his music, and even integrate them. He said, “I feel like Jesus Never Wore a Suit, in a way, is very much a gospel album — even though it’s not a gospel album, obviously. You know, with some of the language.” Thornton, too, saw his faith as part of his artistic life. “They do go hand in hand … I believe personally that God is the author and the finisher of my faith, and that the gifts and the talents that he gave me are to glorify him,” he said. “You know, I’ve been a fool for far lesser things, I’ve said that in one of my verses, so I have no problem letting everybody, the entire world, know that   Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Parker brought up Islam, too, which he described as just as close to hip hop, pointing to Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan’s outreach to rap artists. He described this past semester at Union as the first step he’s taken in exploring faith and hip hop, adding, “I think there are a lot more artists that are open about talking their faith, whether it be Christianity or Islam.” Hip hop is a microcosm of the entire planet; you can speak on any subject and there are still new things being discovered. The power of the culture is more than just mainstream pop music. There is a balance that is needed, and places like Virginia Union are helping open doors for an important dialogue between the church and hip hop artists. As Thornton said, “It’s a conversation you can’t avoid.”

Ultimately, it was the theology department & religious foundation of Union, a Baptistaffiliated school, that [Parker] thought a hip-hop course could highlight.

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Sweetly Begun

On the opening track of his debut full-length album, Sweet Bunch, Andy Jenkins sings, “Man, I would love to finish the book, but I still have pages and pages of lines.” Lucky for us, his story as singer-songwriter is just beginning. Sweet Bunch is due out on June 15 via Spacebomb Records, and while the collection represents a new start for Jenkins, pages and pages of his writing are already out there. His name will ring especially familiar for anyone who has been scanning the liner notes of Spacebomb’s releases since its 2010 founding. You’ll find “Andy C. Jenkins” listed among the writing credits for each of label founder Matthew E. White’s solo albums to date, including White’s breakout debut, Big Inner, which introduced the world to the signature Spacebomb sound. It also introduced the hypnotic combination of White’s soft-spoken vocals, which draw you in, and lyrics that incorporate just enough mystery to keep you at arm’s length. To borrow a line from the Sweet Bunch title track, it’s “a beautiful place to be.” Despite the second meaning of the name of Big Inner — spoken quickly, it sounds like you’re saying “beginner” — its songs felt powerfully ahead of the curve, reflecting a long history of White and Jenkins working together as a musical team. In fact, their friendship dates 42 42

Veteran Spacebomb Artist Andy Jenkins on His Debut Album by Davy Jones

all the way back to a play Jenkins performed in while attending high school in Norfolk, Virginia. “The full story is, he came to see a play at my high school that I was in, and he was coming to my high school the next year,” Jenkins recounted when we spoke over the phone recently. “But his girlfriend at the time went to the high school, and he [said], ‘I’m going to be friends with that guy,’ just from my dramatic performance [laughs]. And then we were in class together and just became buddies, and started fucking around with music [and] fourtrack [recorders] after that.” Jenkins graduated high school in 2002 and went on to attend the University of Virginia. And while college geographically separated him from White, who enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University after a short time at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, the two friends never stopped collaborating. Jenkins eventually moved to Richmond, where he set up a home base for Great White Jenkins, the band the two would periodically play in together until 2011. His next move was a little further afield. “I did the whole teaching English thing for a year,” Jenkins said. “After I lived in Richmond for a few years, and after the Great White Jenkins, RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


It seems timely in retrospect that Jenkins’ musical map expanded globally in this way, just as Spacebomb Records was set to bring a growing Richmond scene to ears all over the world. Now, with four Matthew E. White releases in the rear-view mirror, breakthrough albums by Bedouine and Natalie Prass as impressive milestones, and a game-changing boost provided by the label’s new partnership with Glassnote Entertainment Group’s Resolved Records, Spacebomb has set the stage for Jenkins to move into an expanded role. “It’s a new thing to be the focal point, for sure,” Jenkins affirmed. “It just made sense to do this,” Jenkins added. “I wanted to do [Sweet Bunch] because I like making it and listening to it. I wanted to hear it, I guess, so that’s a reason to make it.”

I went over [to Japan] and did that. It was great. It was a really cool experience.” Nearly 7,000 miles from home, Jenkins still managed to plug into a familiar niche. “I kind of fell in with some kind of underground art and music folk over there pretty rapidly. Some people I knew here knew people there... I got to see some of the whole Boredoms scene. OOIOO played — I saw them in Osaka, which is Yoshimi [P-We]’s band, so there’s a little bit of that. And my friend Norio [Fukuda] runs the record label/ small press in Tokyo called Sweet Dreams. He puts out some bands that do a cool thing — more experimentally minded, but very pretty folk music. It’s a line of genre-blurring that’s not as much of a thing here. But in that little scene, it’s more normal, and people liked a lot of different things.” 13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

photos by Shawn Brackbill

It’s a transition that’s helped him grow his craft. He mentioned that writing and recording Sweet Bunch involved “thinking about the audience more, in a way, and then coming back to writing what I wanted to write for myself,” he said. “I feel like that’s stronger anyway.” It’s also given him an opportunity to make a statement about what it means to be a singer-songwriter in 2018, not unlike what Sturgill Simpson and William Tyler did in the country context by titling recent albums Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Modern Country, respectively. “I toyed with the idea of calling the record Contemporary Singer-Songwriter for a minute,” Jenkins said. “Just because I feel like that term has a very negative stigma in certain circles. It’s definitely not a cool term. But it’s very accurate to what I’m doing, and that first generation of singer-songwriters, when the term came into fashion, that’s just a great body of music that I love.” Throughout Sweet Bunch, I hear parallels with the approach taken by that generation’s finest writers, who dug deeper to find inspiration not just in the exceptional, but also in the everyday. In the same way Carole King brought out the essential goodness of friendship and built a colossal chorus out of the understated idea of feeling like a natural woman, Jenkins makes an anthemic title track hook out of appreciation for the people around him. With a fitting guest vocal assist from Matthew E. White, “Sweet Bunch” declares, “All the boys are true / They are true as the wind,” and “All the girls are strong / They are strong as the sea.” There and elsewhere, the lyrics echo the way in which the record was made. The band Jenkins turned to when tracking Sweet Bunch was made up of close friends from the masterful Spacebomb house band, as well as multi-instrumental heavyweight Phil Cook, who you’ll often find inspiring audiences alongside M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, when he’s not releasing and performing his own perpetually uplifting solo material. 43 43


“All the boys are true/ They are true as the wind, All the girls are strong/ They are strong as the sea.” “His energy and spirit were a great part of the sessions,” Jenkins said of Cook. “There’s a song we co-wrote, ‘Genuine Heart.’ I went down to Durham and I had that beginning of a song, and we finished it up and cut a demo that, parts-wise, is very close to what it ended up being. Particularly on that one, that’s a lot of his vibe.” The results overall were as effective as they were efficient. “All the basic band, rhythm tracks were done in three days, and it was all live for the most part. There were some overdubs, but it was all that band, which was Cameron Ralston, Pinson Chanselle, Alan Parker — who are all Richmond guys — and then Phil Cook from Durham played keys... Those guys are all buddies of mine, so it was a lot of fun. The hang was good.” That sense of closeness is clearly audible in the band’s playing, which is tight and sensitive in equal measure. And you can hear it loud and clear in Jenkins’ lyrics. The word “sweet” makes multiple appearances, beyond the album’s name and title track; like in lead single “Ascendant Hog,” where Jenkins sings about “getting lost in the sweetness of your eyes.” But the album is far from saccharine. “Get Together,” which was co-written by White, offers a counterpoint, saying, “All the sweetness I run with was bound to slow me down after a time.” The variety of emotional contexts in which the theme comes back around allows Sweet Bunch to function as a layered meditation on the idea of contentment. “I was conscious of repeating that word,” Jenkins said, “and I think it gets at what I wanted. I was feeling a number of different things actually writing the songs, song-to-song. [But] expressing a positivity that is more honest about what life is like is something I was trying to do. I feel like sometimes pop lyrics miss one or the other — too angsty or too positive, maybe. So I [was] riding that line a little bit.” He walked that line with White’s expert in-studio advisement as producer. While the two have made music together since high school, recording Sweet Bunch gave them a chance to chart new collaborative territory. “It felt more like a natural extension than a change,” Jenkins said. “It was a new situation for sure. Him being the producer on my record was a new thing. We’ve recorded stuff in the past, but it was a little more casual. But it was cool for him to be in that role, having produced a bunch of stuff. It was nice. Not full-circle, but a continuation of the story.” Jenkins was modest when asked about expectations for the album’s reception. But he did point to a moment that promises to be especially sweet: The arrival of freshly pressed vinyl copies of his debut fulllength. He said, “I’ll be excited to get it and hold it in my hands.” I feel the same way. 44

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13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

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ORDER ONLINE AT PIPEITUPRVA.COM

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RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

47


GOODEATSRVA

SOUL N’ VINEGAR

This summer, Michelle Parrish is hoping to serve busy working families in the Church Hill community more affordable and nutritious options. Her forthcoming grab and go food shop, Soul N’ Vinegar, will open in the former Ruth’s Beauty Shop spot on R Street, selling vegetarian, gluten-free, and other healthy lunch and dinner options, along with beer and wine. Residents can expect a variety of packaged to-go meals and sides, from octopus salad to pickled veggies, homemade salsa verde, vegetarian curries, and mac and cheese. “A lot of the meals will be microwavable, and some will be ready to eat, such as salads and sandwiches,” Parrish said. “It’s right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s meant to be for people who don’t necessarily need a place to eat, they just need food.” Originally from Massachusetts, when Parrish moved to Church Hill a couple of years ago she wasn’t aware of the food deserts that plague certain areas of the city. “I didn’t know about the other side of Richmond, where people don’t have access to fresh food [and] the majority of the population is living below the poverty level,” she said. “I was like, this doesn’t make any sense. Richmond’s supposed to be this huge food town, but all of the options are in the same category.” Living only a couple of blocks away from the shop, she said she felt a calling to it while she was earning her business degree at J Sarge last year. With the urge to revive the shuttered building and offer Church Hill residents affordable fresh food, she enrolled in a free business course through the Office of Minority Business Development.   After that, she decided to focus all her efforts in getting Soul N’ Vinegar up and running. She took a semester off and applied for funding through LISC and Bon Secours’ SEED grant program, which strives to jumpstart small Church Hill businesses. Parrish was awarded $20,000, which gave her the boost she needed to launch the market. “Up until that point, everything was a daydream,” she said. 48

BY AMY DAVID

About 80 percent of the food at Soul N’ Vinegar will be vegetarian, keeping costs low to cater to a wide range of people in that community.   “The goal is to keep as many of the entrees under $10 [as possible],” she said. “There will always be a $5 meal, and I will accept EBT cards so people who use that have access to fresh options. There are a lot of people that are in the area, a lot of older people that have dietary restrictions. I just wanted to have something that was different." Prior to leasing her space, Parrish held pop up events at Sub Rosa and catered for local companies, offering boxed lunches and other snacks including deviled eggs, pimento cheese sliders, smoked chicken salad, and honey cake with candied orange. She plans to continue the catering after the market opens. Parrish said there will seating for six inside, but she will expand with a 15-seat patio after they open sometime this summer. SOULNVINEGAR.COM/CATERING

BREWER’S WAFFLES & MILKSHAKES The owner of Manchester coffee shop Brewer’s Café will open a spot this fall just down the road from his Bainbridge Street location for those with a sweet tooth. Leasing two spaces at 1309 and 1311 Hull St., Ajay Brewer will not only serve up waffles, alcoholic milkshakes, and lunch fare at his new place, Brewer's Waffles & Milkshakes, but also will use one half of the building as an art gallery.  Plans didn’t get cooking for the shop until a few months ago, but expansion has been churning in Brewer’s mind since last summer. “I always wanted to have waffles or pancakes in my shop [and] couldn’t,” he said. “We would bring people to make waffles in the shop, but that was just an ongoing thing, it wasn’t that pressing.” The café owner and former stockbroker, who opened his shop about three years ago, has played a significant role in bringing people to the neighborhood, launching the monthly

Manchester Manifest on first Fridays and drawing in customers recently with “Wu-Tang Sandwich Week.” The proceeds from this collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan members to create some of their favorite sandwiches went to benefit Richmond Public Schools. “The whole idea is to create a community right here where we live in Southside. Doing what I can to make this population better. I truly feel like we can change the world, we just have to start with these communities,” Brewer said. Community was also a big part of the appeal to open Brewer’s Waffles & Milkshakes. “You think about a city environment -- a lot of millennials, a lot of folks who want to be out and about,” he explained. “What do they want to be doing? Where do they want to eat at night time?” Brewer said plans for the new shop came together rather smoothly. “I got a call from the landlord a couple of months ago, he wanted to lease the space. He was like, ‘You can have both spaces if you want it, we just really want to get this café idea out,’” he said. James Harris, an investor in Brewer’s Café, was also looking to dive into his next venture. “He was itching to do something else, he has several businesses and all that came to me around the same time so what would we do became the question,” he said. Brewer said they threw around different ideas for the Hull Street location such as a biscuit restaurant, ice cream shop, even burgers, but ultimately, he knew he wanted to serve the fluffy, golden brown treat.   The menu is in the beginning stages, but Brewer plans to have savory dishes like chicken & waffles and waffle sandwiches that come with sausage, along with a toppings bar with strawberries and other sweeter options. To satisfy the lunch crowd, the shop will also serve sandwiches and salads, with vegetarian and gluten-free options. Sodas from Union Hill’s Roaring Pines are also on the menu, as well as alcoholic milkshakes, so whether you’re an early riser or a night owl who likes their midnight munchies, Brewer’s forthcoming spot plans to cater to everyone. As for the art gallery, the spaces will be connected so patrons can walk between the two, and Brewer hopes to showcase art from near and far. “Personally, I’m an art lover. I’m not really pretending this is something that interests me,” RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


he said. “This space, obviously I’m going to open up for locals too, but I would hope to attract regional, national, and international artists. I'd love for the art space to be an attraction that brings in talent across the world.” His goal is to host exhibits and other gallery openings once he reaches out to community artists. Brewer’s Waffles & Milkshakes will open in September, operating from 7 am to 2 am seven days a week.

MANCHU If you frequent any of the breweries in town, it’s likely you’ve seen a royal purple truck with a feisty chicken emblazoned on the side, serving wings and other Cajun-inspired dishes. This summer, that truck will settle in with a place of its own in Northside. Manchu has only been slinging wings, fried rice, fries, shrimp po' boys, banh mi, and gumbo in Richmond for a year, but its history goes back more than three decades, to a family business that originated in New Orleans. Although a staple in the Big Easy and highly popular with the locals, there are no frills about Manchu, just a simple corner store near the French Quarter that has served up wings, po' boys, fried fish, and yakamein for 35 years. “We’re one of the few corner stores that’s still around,” said Manchu food truck owner Marvin Nguyen of his family’s business.   Nguyen’s cousin Tommy and his wife Yen Pham, along with his father Kevin, founded the original Manchu, and while Nguyen moved out of New Orleans when he was 10, he returns every year to visit the store and his family. His passion for cooking, however, didn’t come until years later.  His parents, originally from Vietnam, moved them to North Carolina, then Martinsville, Va. where he grew up. The food truck operator finally planted roots in Richmond in 2005 after transferring from UVA to J. Sarge in 2005 to study biology of all things. When not in school, Nguyen  spent his time working odd office jobs before realizing that wasn’t his true calling. “I was like, ‘this is not me,’” he said. “All these office jobs I’m getting, I’m helping a lot of people, but I’m not helping myself,” he said. “It’s not that fun.” After coming to this realization, he 13 YEARS OF RVA MAGAZINE 2005-2018

left school and had a career as a DJ in Richmond and DC for 10 years, before finally deciding to take up the family business. “I’ve always liked to cook at home or for my friends, so I thought, ‘Why not open a food truck?’ I’ve always talked about it, but never pulled through.” Nguyen often urged his family during his yearly trips to visit to expand the restaurant up north, but they were content where they were. Nguyen finally decided to take on the venture himself. From January to April 2017, he studied under the tutelage of his cousin and dad, learning the inner-workings of the original Manchu. His time may have been brief, but it was no easy task. “I went down there and studied for like four months and did everything from the kitchen work, the recipes, the cooking of the fried rice, the chicken, and marinating,” he said. In 2016, he bought his food truck, and the following year, Manchu was up and running in Richmond. He started out in Ashland, serving employees at Owens & Minor and Amazon, followed by weekly trips to SunTrust, and growing to regular gigs at local breweries like Ardent Craft Ales, The Veil Brewing Co., Hardywood, and Isley. Richmond’s Manchu food truck is similar to the NOLA corner store, but with Nguyen‘s spin on it. The truck sells traditional BBQ, sticky garlic, and ghost pepper wings, which he uses ghost pepper powder to make. “It’s not one of those that things really spicy, but you can taste the ghost pepper,” he said. As for the wing recipe, Nguyen is keeping most of that under his hat, only divulging that wings are dry-rubbed and brined for 24 hours. And while the success this year-old food truck has received from the locals has been great for Nguyen, he said expanding with a store of his own was always in the cards. “I wanted to open a store in the first place, but we wanted something that was mobile,” he said. “The plan was to get people to know who Manchu is, and why we’re here.” His new North Avenue restaurant, which he leased in January, will be takeout only, and while he eyed bustling neighborhoods like Scott’s Addition, he said after serving the Northside community, he knew it was the perfect place to set up shop. “I felt like to be at home, just like our store down

in New Orleans, we wanted to find a spot that caters mostly to the kind of people that fit our demographic, and Northside has been such a blast for us,” he said. “We park our food truck out there every now and then, it’s right next to a library. We made a huge impact in that area.” All the residents that live there and the heavy foot traffic were another reason he wanted to open his takeout restaurant there. “I like how people just walk around, that reminds me of home in New Orleans,” he said. “Just outside hanging out. We want to make that impact in that community.” Since opening the food truck, Nguyen has used a commercial kitchen on West Broad Street, but will move operations to the new shop when it opens. And with only four employees, the roving truck will come home to roost for a bit while the takeout spot gets off the ground, but keep an eye out, as it could pop up at an event here and there. With the new takeout spot, Manchu will still serve up its signature wings and po' boys, but Nguyen also plans to experiment with some new recipes and expand the menu. “We’re going to have some specials too. We have a recipe for crawfish boils and daily specials such as Pho Boys, so basically all the ingredients of Pho, but you eat it like a French dip,” he said. “We do want to create a Mambo sauce. We’ve made it before, but we still want to play with it. It goes on the wings and the rice.” His mother, who also worked on the food truck, has come aboard to be the chef for the restaurant. Nguyen handles all the seasonings and prep for the wings, and his mother makes the gumbo and roasted chicken for the business. The New Orleans Manchu, which was once a Chinese restaurant, doesn’t have a logo, and is just labeled as Manchu Food Store. Nguyen plans to model his Richmond takeout restaurant after the flagship store with a mural of the NOLA sign -- along with his unmistakable chicken logo, of course. “I just want to make sure we are the staple wing place to go to in Richmond,” he said. “That’s my goal. I’m just going to work my butt off to make that happen.” Manchu will be open sometime in August, six days a week from 10 am to 8 pm. MANCHUFOODTRUCK.COM

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MASSAPPEALRVA UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND GRAD LAUNCHES GENDER FLUID BRAND

University of Richmond isn’t exactly known for its fashion program, at least not in comparison to VCU, but Kadeem Fyffe made it work. Fyffe started as a journalism major, seeking a wellrounded liberal arts education, but soon shifted to Studio Arts to study fashion, which led to a semester abroad in Milan where he’d work on the opening of Milan Fashion Week. Fyffe would go on to study at Parsons School of Design and design for Michael Kors, but his biggest achievement was the launch of his own label, Muxe. “I wanted to start a brand that embodies and has a political component to it,” he said. “It’s important for people who are creative to have a voice or platform to speak out and express your beliefs.” Fyffe’s gender-fluid label features t-shirts in a different lengths, with various statements and designs. Some of them are almost politically wonkish, such as his #SAYTHE7 tee, which features a row of the seven words the Trump Administration asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to use any more. Fyffe will release an extended collection this summer featuring crop tops and tanks. By Spring 2019, Muxe will roll out a more complete collection of men’s skirts and unisex pants, along with more statement tees. “I wanted to start off slow,” Fyffe said. “I plan to keep my finger on the pulse and release items that are expressive at just the right time.” See the full collection at muxenewyork.com.

BY MEGAN WILSON

PRETTY POWERFUL EXHIBIT ELEVATES CURRENT AND 19TH CENTURY RICHMOND FASHION From the inaugural ball gown worn by First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam in 2017 to silk gowns designed in 1875, The Valentine’s current fashion exhibit features an inclusive and thoughtful collection of clothing from female designers, tastemakers, and boutiques. Current designers and boutique owners including Rupa Singh of Love This, Bella Weinstein of Handyma’am, and Deborah Boschen of Verdalina received their own spot in the story woven by The Valentine’s curators. One display case features 10 designs from Maxwell Reid, who creates wearable art in her home in the Fan District today. “A well-crafted wardrobe acts as a highly visible performance of identity,” reads a placard in the exhibit, introducing a series of outfits and pieces worn around the region during the past century. Pieces like a 1948 gingham playsuit and 1960s Vera Maxwell ensembles created for former Thalhimers Vice President Elizabeth Bauder are displayed with detailed stories and quotes about how the garments were made, who wore them where, and how they fit into Richmond’s cultural history. Bauder’s story, for example, chronicles her rise up the Thalhimers corporate ladder from copywriter, to Fashion Coordinator, to Vice President and Director of Sale Promotions. Visit the exhibit between now and January 27, 2019. Learn more at thevalentine.org.

RISING UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND JUNIOR ZACH RYAN GROWS FASHION START-UP Zach Ryan has been founding fashion startups since he was 15. It all started when the Connecticut native spent a summer in Nantucket. “I saw all these startups by college kids,” he said. “I saw that it wasn’t just about clothing. It was about a lifestyle, building your own world. I did more research and got to know the founders of some of these brands. They inspired me to start my own clothing brand at a young age.” Ryan just finished his sophomore year at the University of Richmond. At 21, he’s started four companies, one of which he sold in high school for five figures. His namesake clothing brand, Zach Ryan, is one of his most recent ventures. The collection features polos, henleys, and cardigans with a coastal New England aesthetic. “Ultimately, this combines everything I love into one melting pot: design, sketching, photography, expressing yourself, sharing it with the world,” he said. Thanks to connections from his internships, Ryan works with manufacturers and factories used by Tommy Hilfiger, Armana, and H&M. The high-quality garments are sold online, with more than 90 percent of his business coming from Instagram, Ryan said. The University of Richmond Bookstore also carries Zach Ryan pieces. Ryan is working to develop custom collections for more bookstores on college and boarding school campuses. As for what’s next, Ryan says he will release a new shirt design this summer. He’s also working on developing a new app. See the full collection at zachryan.com.

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RVAMAGAZINE MAGAZINE33 33| |SUMMER SUMMER2018 2018 RVA


BUILDING A BIGGER CATWALK

RUDY LOPEZ BRINGS A GRAND VISION TO RICHMOND’S FASHION SCENE

During his first year as a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Rudy Lopez helped orchestrate the largest end-of-year showcase the fashion department has ever seen, held at the Main Street Train Shed. This is a dramatic achievement for Lopez, who, even a year ago, thought working as a professor at VCU was far from likely. After years of failed starts and stints in retail to pay the bills, he’s at the forefront of campus fashion, and branching out city-wide. Lopez, originally from the Philippines, grew up in a family of achievers. His father was a doctor, his sister a financial executive; another sister went into the arts and became a sculptor. He came of age during the 1990s East Coast skateboarding scene. Although he loved to draw from his earliest years, he really explored his creative side while playing in bands and traveling to hardcore punk shows in DC. When it came to a career, he wasn’t sure where his many interests and energy would lead. Lopez took his first shot at college at George Mason University, where he quickly partied his way to academic probation. The summer after his first year, while talking about his future, a friend asked if he could see himself drawing more. Lopez immediately thought, “Yes, of course.” He researched art schools and sent in five drawings to VCU; his journey through art school started that fall, in 1998. The words of Dean Richard Toscan during orientation shaped him in ways that probably weren’t expected -- he still remembers them today: “If you think you are the hot-shot artist in [your] high school, look around; you’re one of 500.” “I felt way over my head,” Lopez said. “I wasn’t that artist.” Self-fulfilling or not, his prophecy turned out to be right -- but something good still came of his struggles through the school’s foundation classes, which he called 13YEARS YEARSOF OFRVA RVAMAGAZINE MAGAZINE2005-2018 2005-2018 13

“art bootcamp.” The summer after that first year, Lopez received an invitation to help out with a fashion show in New York, hosted by Organization for Returning Fashion Interest (ORFI). “They needed help putting on the fashion show, filling out model sheets, organizing garments, sending invitations; the grunt work,” Lopez said. He hopped a train to New York, where he went 48 hours without any sleep. “ I w a s s u r r o u n d e d by creatives,” he said. “I felt this overwhelming wave of passion.” When he returned to VCU, he turned to the fashion department to merge his n ew f o u n d in te r e st wit h his desire to be creative. He pursued the Fashion Merchandising track, thinking he could study design later if he wanted. Future internships led him to new contacts in New York and revelations about his career path. After graduation, Lopez attended Parsons School of Design, where he studied fashion graphic design. From Parsons, he worked his way back to Richmond’s Need Supply Co., where he worked as a store manager before opening Henry, a streetwear shop on Broad Street, in 2006. Although the store earned acclaim, and is seen as the foundation for the current

streetwear scene in the Broad Street Arts District, it didn’t survive the economic downturn, closing in 2008. Lopez was discouraged. “It got to a point where I hated the Richmond fashion scene,” he said. He and his wife decided it was time for a break from the city, returning to Lopez’s native Philippines for about five months. However, he came back for a position at VCU, as a manager at the campus technology store. While there, an assistant professorship opened up at the Fashion Department in VCU. “They asked me to interview,” Lopez said, and he went for it, despite thinking it was a long shot. Fortunately, he got the job, and said he couldn’t be happier with the work, especially mentoring students like himself who struggle to find their passion. “I love it -- teaching, guiding, and mentoring,” Lopez said. “Looking back at my own path, I always liked giving younger, up-and-coming people advice. I loved helping them and giving them whatever I could.” He described the team as “a great blend of analytical and creative backgrounds,” looking to “create well-rounded people who can think in a variety of ways.” Enter Lopez. He hopes to encourage an increasing level of collaboration among departments in the school and with businesses in the community. He says the community is ready for it. “Everyone says, ‘I don’t follow fashion,’ but every single person is dressed,” he said. “You’re part of the cycle.” During the end-of-year fashion showcase, Lopez invited friends to create music, bringing the community to the campus. Joe Davenport, who performs as DJ Bobby La Beat, laid out live beats. It’s just a first, small step toward his goal of uniting different communities. “Collaboration this year is not as extensive as I would like,” he said. “When you look at the production of a fashion show, there are so many elements: we have music we need to curate, the Department of Theater could create backdrops for the fashion show, there’s opportunity to work more closely with the designers as they create their collections.” The physical impact of his presence could be seen in the innovative runway design for the 2018 showcase. The venue selection gave students space to create a runway that welcomed three times as many guests compared to previous years. Compared to a typical 70-foot runway, Lopez said, this year’s runway snaked through the train shed for nearly 500 feet. “People were caught off guard when I said the fashion show could be bigger,” Lopez said, about an event that was already dramatically larger than prior ones. “It could be bigger not even in terms of people, but to be inclusive of people outside of VCUArts and fashion.” Ultimately, he does this work because he wants the next generation of fashion students to be as proud of Richmond as he is. He said his work is “a reflection of how proud I feel graduating from the school, and the students coming after me.”

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RVAONTAP

BY AMY DAVID

THE VANGUARD IN HAMPTON

The Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach area just saw the doors open this spring on a new brewery: The Vanguard Brewpub & Distillery. The large facility The Vanguard calls home is Hampton's historic National Guard Armory, which was a middle point of history and architecture used between the world wars. The Armory has been used as a communal center for decades, over the years hosting traveling performers like Clarence Clemons and Otis Redding. Owners Randy Thomas and Bjorn Marshall, along with head brewer and distiller Todd Emr, look to keep tradition alive by featuring live music from local and national artists seven days a week. We're excited to watch The Vanguard as it joins the area's culture, and especially to see what brews come out of their combined brewery and distillery - which are both located in-house, and will work together on special barrels. The brewpub serves Caiseal Beer & Spirits, and is serving up a seasonal menu, along with craft cocktails and craft brews. Right now, the brewpub has a variety of brews on tap, from their kolsch-style ale to a red ale to a tropical IPA called Snap Guns and a coffee blonde ale made with Hampton’s rogue Elephant Coffee. Vanguard is also currently churning out four spirits including a single-malt whiskey, a white whiskey using a bourbon recipe, a vodka, and a gin. As for their food, patrons can indulge in American bistro-style fare such as short ribs, crab cakes, and hamburgers.

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COMING ATTRACTIONS By now everyone should be checking out the new breakout breweries Cannon & Draw Brewing, Steam Bell Beer Works’ sister brewery in the Fan, and Lickinghole Goodwater, the Goochland farm brewery’s Shockoe Bottom spot. And now we have a few more that are on the way with veterans in the brewing and local food scene.  Safety Team Brewing, a brewery from The Answer Brewpub’s head brewer Brandon Tolbert, is hoping to build a new facility in the Brookland Park neighborhood. Scott’s Addition is slated to get yet another brewery from the fine people of Comfort & Pasture called Bingo, which will be an arcade, brewery, and restaurant. We also have a couple of expansions from some of our popular spots in the city. The ever-popular Scott’s Addition brewery The Veil is looking to expand to a second location on southside Richmond, around Westover Hills. Isley Brewing is also expanding, heading all the way down to Virginia Beach to open a location in the ViBe Creative District.

CLOSINGS While many area breweries are growing, we’ve also seen some unfortunate closings in the region. California-based Green Flash Brewing closed its Virginia Beach location in March, and stopped distributing all beer to the East Coast at the same time. The 58,000 squarefoot brewery and taproom only opened two years ago, but according to a news release, the company had “been under significant pressure due to the cost and complexity of bicoastal operations.” And following a foreclosure by Green Flash’s lender, Comerica Bank, it also sold its West Coast brewing operation to the WC IPA LLC, a San Diego-based group of investors, in April. Back at home, Manchester’s Twisted Ales Craft Brewing also closed in early June, after one year in business. During their short time here, Twisted Ales churned out some awesome

IPAs, including their Sleight of Hand IPA with mango and blood orange, a West Coast IPA called Magic Lantern, and my personal favorite, the Bang Up to the Elephant, a citrusy brew with pineapple and grapefruit. But IPAs weren’t the brewery’s only offering, Twisted Ales also experimented with different brews like the Twisted Musketeers, a chocolate milk stout, an English Brown Ale made with espresso, hefeweizen, and a lemonpeppery saison. The historic taproom, located at 212 W. 6th St, regularly supported causes like FeedMore, James River Conservation, Amy Black’s Pink Ink Fund, and Richmond’s Daily Planet. Debbi Price and her husband Jason, a longtime homebrewer, opened Twisted Ales last June. Price said they ultimately decided to shut down operations after her husband, who has over two decades of experience in IT, took a job in North Carolina. “When the opportunity came, we evaluated our lives and decided to take it,” she said. “Although brewing is a lot of fun and we have met some great people and helped support some great causes in RVA, we were concerned that we were spending less quality time as a family with our two sons. My husband’s mother passed away a couple of weeks ago and it caused Jason to reflect on his life, in general. He wished he had spent more quality time with her before she had passed. He told me, ‘I thought brewing beer was my passion, but my passion is really my family.’ The job offer came a week later. We felt forces were moving our lives in a new direction.” But don’t fret just yet, craft beer fans, because Price said that, while nothing is set in stone, it looks as though the space will remain a brewery – perhaps even still called Twisted Ales with the same beers. We’ll be keeping an eye out for further developments on this front.

RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


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You’re coming back to the capital of the Confederacy. We’re looking at a statue of Jefferson Davis from our office window — how does that feel? I [was excited to] come back and eat at that deli...please help me out with that. Perly’s? Oh man it was the best. You are never really in a place for too long, if you can squeeze out two meals you are lucky. Has your comedy changed in the era of Trump? You can’t craft a lot of bits about something Trump said or did because every outrageous moment is replaced by an increasingly outrageous moment within hours or days. My take has been to talk less about him, and more about his fans and the people who love him. I try not to do anything too specific and timely because two weeks later, I have to drop the bit. Is it harder to tell jokes? I think comedy is harder in the overall sense that the helplessness and loss of feeling of any kind of anchor to normalcy, reality, or to what America was up until a couple years ago, has altered our ability to focus and enjoy things the way we did prior to that. There is a lot of stuff you can joke about that feels almost irresponsible and dismissive; like ‘why are you focusing on that’ because these awful things are happening to innocent people. People are understandably upset, and feel that they are treading water trying to get air, asking, “What’s happening?” It is one horrifying thing after another — if you care about people other than yourselves. I should qualify this: If you are concerned with other groups of people, other than straight white Christians, then you are going to be upset. If not, things are going great. What’s a coping mechanism in this political climate? Weed is the first answer. I don’t know how you cope with it. You try to fight it. Do you worry that mocking Trump voters emboldens them? I wouldn’t say I worry about it, but I am aware that that might be a response to what I am doing. But also, that ship has sailed a long, long, long time ago. I find this idea that gets picked up and pushed around as not having as much weight as the people that come up with those ideas [think]Ž— this sounds like a David Brooks idea! The things I’m saying or feeling, I would not pull back on or edit myself because I thought, “Oh no, what if I make Dan and Margaret from Bloomington upset.” I am not going to be the one that pushes them over the edge. On the flip side: Are you finding it challenging to play to a young liberal audience? That is 100 percent true. I have experienced this on my last tour. One of the worst shows I had in a place I am not going back to was in Northampton, Massachusetts, which is a very liberal town. I have always had problems, even when I was opening for headliners and no one knew who I was. I really grew as a comic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is also very liberal, and I go to San Francisco, and always had problems with that very attitude you are talking about, where you say a word and they just shut down. 54

David Cross

interview by Landon Shroder & David Streever

They don’t listen to the bit, they don’t listen to what the context is; they just heard the word, concept, or phrase and then shut you down by saying you are a racist, homophobic, you are whatever they want to apply. It is definitely a much stronger presence now than there ever was. How do I reconcile it? I don’t, really. I do my stuff. Most people, by far, 90 percent of people get the context. Funny is subjective, I can’t fault someone for going “that’s not funny.” But if they think it is offensive or shouldn’t be said, there are tons of stuff you can look at and cherry pick and say, “You said this word or you said that thing, and I don’t like the joke.” You’re headed for Europe on this tour. How does it feel to be an American ambassador in the era of Trump? I went to Europe on the last tour, and we are very alien to them. Most people really like America and like Americans, but they are just perplexed and head-scratching. [They wonder], “You have most of the money in the world, but have one of the highest illiteracy and teen pregnancy rates; you allow automatic rifles to be sold to people who shoot people up and kill children and don’t do anything about it. You work really hard and don’t make that much money and you aren’t happy.” [Europeans] are right. They’re like, “We don’t have the money you have, but we’re happy with our lives.” They have universal healthcare, no one goes broke if they get sick. They have three months of maternity leave, and are unionized, and have six times the vacation days as Americans. They get a month off with their families. Do Europeans understand the redneck character you sometimes play? I think they see it as a caricature that is pretty common. It is an easily gettable person. RVA MAGAZINE 33 | SUMMER 2018


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Profile for RVA Magazine

RVA #33 Summer 2018  

With so much to do in our own River City, it’s hard to get outside and see the rest of Virginia--but it’s always rewarding. With that in min...

RVA #33 Summer 2018  

With so much to do in our own River City, it’s hard to get outside and see the rest of Virginia--but it’s always rewarding. With that in min...

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