Nine remarkable women, elevating Richmond Culture. Richmond can be a paradox – historic and traditional, sometimes conservative, yet welcoming to open-minded people who seek a place that encourages creation. The nine dynamic women on these pages have solved that paradox. They’re visionaries, bringing never-before-seen possibilities to life. They are dedicated to their craft and to moving the arts forward in Richmond and beyond. We honor these inspiring leaders who have made significant contributions to the vibrant fabric of Richmond’s arts and culture. > > >
Thursday, August 29, 2013 • 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. hosted by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 200 N Boulevard, richmond, VA 23220 To RSVP or for further information, please contact Tonie Stevens at (804) 358-0825 x 331 or email@example.com.
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Author, Former Director James River Writers “I didn’t discover my passion for writing till I was in my forties,” says fifty-something author Anne Westrick. “I liked writing as a kid, but then lost interest I think mostly because of the way fiction gets pulled apart in literature classes and I didn’t think I could write that well, ” she adds. It wasn’t until she was raising four, creative kids that she realized she needed to take her own advice about following a passion. She signed up for a creative writing class at VMFA and went on to serve as Administrative Director of James River Writers for seven years before leaving to purse the writing gig full time. She admits her early work was “totally horrible.” Nonetheless, she committed to writing hours, snagged an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2011 and got serious about her craft. Westrick will release her first young adult novel, Brotherhood, this September. With one book behind her, she’s on to the next project and carves off a few morning hours to write, six days a week. If she’s not working on a novel, she’s feverishly cranking out blog posts giving writers tips on how to hone their craft and offers plenty of inspiration. “I just tell people, “Look at how old I am. If I can do it, you can do it,” she says. In addition to her continued involvement with James River Writers, she has coached the Reading Olympics and an Odyssey of the Mind team. You can also find Westrick in area schools volunteering with her target audience. “I love writing for young adults. They challenge authority and I love it,” says Westrick. While countless studies lament the decline of reading comprehension and writing skills among young folks, the author is optimistic. “Teachers are under a lot of pressure because of the way schools are set up, but if you really love writing you can start a blog and get readership for free,” she says. “These are wonderful opportunities,” she adds. The ever-encouraging Westrick offers up this sage advice to artists of all ages. “Don’t find time to do your art, make time to do your art. Give the art priority in your life,” says Westrick.
Joan Oates Founder, Partners in the Arts university of richmond Fabulous. Genuine. Outrageously awesome. These are words that an evergrowing fan base uses to describe Joan Oates, founder of Partners in the Arts. The organization unites educators and artists with teachers to integrate creative arts into the core curriculum. Through grants to area schools and a five-day summer institute for teachers of all grade levels at University of Richmond, Partners in the Arts encourages teachers and students to scribble joyously outside the lines and embrace the learnings that happen in the process. “Freedom is wonderful,” says Oates. At 84, Oates has rubbed shoulders with a fair share of influential artists but, it’s children that excite her the most. Mrs. Oates recalls her early days as a teacher at The Collegiate School and a moment of realization. On a snowy day, the teacher took her students outside and an explosion of creativity and curiosity ensued. “When we came inside, they knew what they wanted to do and were serious about it,” she says. By day’s end, the students had learned the science of snow, written a song about it, and made glorious art in the form of snow angels. Weeks later, the second graders dazzled Mrs. Oates with facts they had learned that day. “Oh, it was just wonderful,” she recalls. It was after that experience, that the teacher began thinking about connecting a child’s learning experience to the arts, music and poetry. In 1994, Partners in the Arts was established when the National Endowment for the Arts funded a proposal submitted by Oates and the Arts Council of Richmond. Years later, hundreds of students and teachers benefit from the ingenuity and passion of one woman. Director of Education at SPARC describes Mrs. Oates as “quiet angel among us” and emphasizes that, “it is because of her generosity and passion for arts education that many of our organizations, programs and facilities continue to exist, says Thomas-Foley. She adds, “to this day, she can be caught dancing amongst the students.” The Brookline, MA native has achieved rock star status complete with a theater named in her honor at The Collegiate School, but insists that the smallest efforts to support the arts are sometimes the most meaningful. “Just gather people in your house if you have to and decide what you’re going to create. Whether it’s music, painting or a just a wonderful poem, it starts with people.” says Oates.
Terrie Powers Visual Artist, Scenic Designer virginia repertory theatre Since 1981, Terrie Powers has been making sets for former Theatre IV, now the Virginia Repertory Theatre. Having spent most of her life in Bon Air, she first came to the theatre in her 20s, when it consisted of a handful of people; the company initially hired the University of Richmond graduate as an intern. Powers, who is also an exhibiting painter, explains the appeal of collaborative set design: “In theatre, you use the playwright’s message and director’s artistic vision to create some feeling that gives the viewer an experience, a style, or a message. Many of the same elements of design in painting are visible in theatre. You give them a mood or an overall effect through visual tools. Then you step aside and let the viewer experience it. There’s a connection to a larger abstract that takes place.” Harnessing that connection to a larger reality is evident in her paintings as well. Powers doesn’t identify herself as just a painter or set designer but instead sees her work as intertwined. Both are influenced by her interest in the mystical spiritual as seen through nature; each is incomplete until viewed by the audience. As Powers describes, “Though I do plenty of small studies in my studio, they are auditioning for bigger roles, to be used later in larger paintings.” Powers has titled her current ongoing series of paintings “Gathering the Light” because she believes artmaking is a process of, “gathering images, processing them, and rendering them on canvas. It is the spiritual made visible.” Powers sees this series as well as her mural and theatrical work only growing within this “culturally interesting and vibrant town with its many theatres and designated cultural arts district.” With a laugh, she says, “the great thing about being an artist is I don’t have to retire at any age. I just keep working until I can’t! My work has taken on an urgent nature to get out my message.” Indeed, Powers has spent the last thirty years getting out that message: “I’m so proud to work with a company that has grown so amazingly and has reached so many people, especially children, who by now are adults. We’ve given them a chance to watch a play, to feel something, to laugh to cry, to think. You take that with you and that’s lasting. It gives you a sense of happiness and that’s the greatest thing.”
Susan Greenbaum Singer, Songwriter Susan Greenbaum is awestruck having just sold every CD she brought with her to an early morning church gig on the city’s Southside. The singer-songwriter has been playing music professionally for well over a decade and still doesn’t take a single compliment or sale for granted. “I just love that kind of interaction with people who appreciate the music,” says Greenbaum. “I love what I do. There are days when it’s hard, but I love it,” she adds. The diminutive folk singer tends to blow folks away with her big voice and serious songwriting chops. She’s garnered plenty of industry attention winning numerous national songwriting contests including the Smithsonian Songwriters Award and the Philadelphia Songwriters Project and has played with notable names like Jewel, Patty Griffin, and Jason Mraz. Greenbaum wasn’t always hell bent on making music for a living. She grew up loving music in Kansas City, but ultimately graduated Harvard and did the corporate job thing, quite well in fact. She rose to the upper echelons of a Fortune 500 company, but traded in her briefcase for a gig bag and became a full time musician in 1999. The only regret she has these days is that she didn’t do it sooner, like one of her now very famous dorm mates. “Someone I admire and respect is my college friend, Conan O’Brien. He knew that he wanted to be an entertainer and he went for it without compromise,” she says. “I wish I had realized earlier like he did that I could have done this from the get go,” she says. The singer still dreams big, but mostly in hopes that some day she can give back to her longtime supporters. “I’d love to be famous just to help out other people,” she says with a laugh. She is already doing more than her fair share to promote arts in Richmond playing benefit shows around town for SPARC and Positive Vibe Cafe among countless others.“It’s a total luxury to use something that I love to do to help people,” says Greenbaum. “If someone wants me or needs me to do it and I’m available, I’m going to do it. That sometimes gets me in trouble,” she adds laughing. Signed to Nashville’s Compass Records, the songwriter will begin work on her sixth album in September. “It’s time to squirrel myself away and start writing. I haven’t written in an uncomfortable while,” says Greenbaum. “I’m finally giving myself the gift of solitude to do that,” she adds.
Irene Ziegler Author, Actor, Playwright “The new me is going to be more of a mentor than a performer. And I like that.” Telling words for a woman who has worn many hats in the Richmond arts community since 1987, as an actor, writer, and professor. When asked which role she prefers, the Florida-native responds, “Right now teaching. I had a wonderful time as artist-in-residence last year at the University of Richmond. I felt like I taught a thing-or-two to the students.” That sense of mentorship or giving back is integral to the new Ziegler. “I find myself being a seasoned-artist, a survivor, and as Kevin Spacey once said, it’s good to send the elevator back down and I hope to have more opportunities to do that — to bring other people up” within the nurturing environment of Richmond’s arts community. Ziegler will be teaching again this fall and has also been cast in Cadence Theatre’s Fall Production of “Good People.” With a seasoned acting career spanning stage, film, and television, Ziegler explains the appeal of each genre: “All three have their benefits. I like being on the stage for the immediacy of it. That feeling of being in the moment and immersed in your craft is never so acute as when you’re on stage. Film is rewarding because it is a prestigious medium. Television is sort of an immediate gratification; it is a well paying product and occasionally art depending on your attitude.” Having a correct attitude about her work is important to Ziegler, a woman still learning to overcome a series of painful, life-altering events. Although she admits to permanent scars, she is regaining confidence and structure with the support of friends and family. In the middle of her struggles, she considered leaving Richmond to start over anew, but “a friend reminded me that I had invested over twenty-five years of goodwill and equity in Richmond and that I would never be able to make the same contributions elsewhere that I made here. I feel like a part of the fabric — I like to think there’s a metallic element to that fabric so I glitter just a little bit! Going someplace else, I might find myself on the outside looking in rather than being in a position to be honored as a woman in the arts here in Richmond. Here, I feel like I’m contributing, I’m appreciated and that there’s a lot more to come.”
Sara Belle November
Philanthropist, Contributor, Volunteer A native of Augusta, Georgia, Sara Belle November initially fell in love with the theater in the first grade after reciting Longfellow’s “There Was a Little Girl.” Her love for the arts expanded in 1950 when she married her husband Neil November, the son of accomplished regional painter Sara November, who studied with Theresa Pollak. That initial performance as a child led to high school drama classes and eventually productions in Richmond, Georgia, and Philadelphia; she last appeared on stage in the 1980s. However, November prefers a leading role behind the curtain, encouraging actors here in Richmond through monetary and service-related gifts. A charter member of the former Barksdale Theater and Theater IV, November supports burgeoning students in SPARC to accomplished actors at the current Virginia Repertory Theatre. In 2011, the Novembers gifted $2 million to the Empire Theater (renamed the Sara Belle November Theater) because “I think [the Virginia Repertory Theatre] do[es] the best work — they’re probably the best theater in town.” She laughingly quips that other sites bearing the “Sara Belle November” title are “just a bad habit of my husband’s…he just goes around naming theaters and then tells me surprise!” A retired medical technician who served on the first heart transplant team in Richmond, November’s philanthropic work reaches across the Richmond arts community; it also extends to the Jewish Community Center, Children’s Museum, Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, etc. From checking coats at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to delivering art films to Westminster-Canterbury for their weekly film screenings, November displays a personal commitment to the arts. The Novembers have also amassed a collection of regional paintings and art glass, some of which they intend to donate to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Valentine Richmond History Center. When asked about the evolving Richmond arts community, November enthusiastically responds. “Oh my goodness have I seen the art scene change! The galleries that I frequent have immensely grown. Now they have them on the Southside [whereas before] it used to be just downtown Richmond. And the same with the theaters, which have grown and bring in remarkable talent.” She intends to continue fostering that transformation. November doesn’t see her volunteer work, art collecting, or theater attendance slowing down anytime soon: “I was at the museum this morning, yesterday I was at the hospitality house and the Galleria here [at Westminster-Canterbury], so I do stay busy…[and we also] subscribe to all the plays.”
Laura Loe Oil Painter, Artist Laura Loe describes herself as, “I’m not a prodigy. I got out of college and was a terrible painter — I am a school-of-hard-knocks learner.” After graduating with a BFA from Louisiana Tech, it took Loe eight years — doing graphic design during the week and bartending and waiting tables on the weekends in D.C. and Richmond — before she started to really focus on painting. She’s been painting now for three decades. A former teacher of adults at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Loe divides her time between painting, serving as executive director for the Nimrod Hall Arts Program in Bath County, and raising three school-aged children with her husband. Although she began as a representational painter, her artmaking now fluctuates between figurative and abstract; she describes the representational work as Southern American Gothic while the abstract paintings are related to color theory. Loe states, “I love the actual act of painting. The end result is very secondary, it’s about the process of painting instead.” For Loe, doing that takes continual practice, while learning “that not everyone will love your work. I stopped trying to do what I thought people wanted to see, and started doing what came out.” She says having kids reminded her to stop being “so serious about the artwork. At the end of the day they’re just cool colors on a canvas. [My kids have] been a gift to make me know that I can let things go.” Being a mom of three naturally makes it harder to find time to work. Spending four to five weeks each summer at the Nimrod Hall Arts Program — she calls it “like going home” — allows her a chance to focus predominately on painting. Loe has been running the seasonal camp, which attracts about 130 adults each summer, for the last seventeen years. Loe describes Nimrod’s appeal: “[while there,] you’re surrounded by people of like-minded passions and everything’s taken care of for you. You don’t have any distractions.” But for the rest of the year, Loe calls Richmond home. “I love Richmond. Richmond, and the whole state of Virginia, is a much more accepting and accommodating place to be an artist than where I grew up [in Louisiana]. Here, people seem to understand and value art: we have the VMFA, the Visual Arts Center, and the new [Institute of Contemporary Art]. I think Virginia has an evolved arts community in comparison to other places.”
Sukenya Best Printer, Painter virginia union university
Sukeyna Best has known she’d be a working artist since she was in the seventh grade. While she had always been surrounded by art and music makers in her family, it wasn’t until she was having a casual conversation with a classmate that everything clicked. She recalls her peer, almost in a joking way, asked if she was going to be a career artist. The young woman’s response was definitive and revelatory. “Yeah, I am actually,” she replied. The native New Yorker spent many summers in the River City with her grandmother and eventually found herself studying painting and printmaking at VCU. Over ten years later, she and her family remain Richmonders. “The scene is really growing. With all of the programs and art, the possibilities just keep me here,” she says. A woman whose work and life exude constant motion, Best creates pieces that merge her passion for music, dance and visual art. “Music and movement have always been a part of me and I’ve always loved to dance,” says Best. “When I hear music I can’t keep still,” she adds. Inspired by a conversation with dancers as well as salsa, Caribbean, and African percussive sounds, Best created an impressive series of large scale monotypes entitled, Bare Sole. The process involved having dancers “be the drawing tool” on a smooth, inked surface leaving impressions that ultimately acted as plate to print the finished product. “Visually, I wanted to show and talk about what happened after the dance, the evidence of that person, the rhythm and movement,” says Best. In addition to monotypes, she creates vibrant water color paintings and is preparing to release a cartoon-like travelogue, Chocolate Bella, inspired by a whirlwind trip to Europe last summer. When she’s not creating, Best makes a point to educate and encourage future creators. She has worked extensively with Art 180 in the past and is currently a full-time instructor at Virginia Union University and teaches at J. Sargeant Reynolds. “I get really excited when the student has an a-ha moment and discovers passion. I love seeing how the student understands the objective or goal of an assignment, but then runs with it,” says Best. Art has taught her a few life lessons as well. “Be creative, not just to create but lead a creative life,” she says.
Amy Black Tattoo Artist
trademark tattoo and pink ink fund
In less than two hours, Amy Black transforms lives. That’s roughly the amount of time it takes this extraordinary artist to ink two astonishingly real nipple/areola tattoos restoring a breast cancer patient’s sense of self and confidence. Just over a year and a half ago, the Pink Ink Fund was established to help post-mastectomy individuals needing financial assistance with reconstructive tattooing. “Thirty years ago, reconstruction was one-size fits all, this is what you get. Women had deep trench-like scars,” says Black. One of her first efforts was to create the Nipple Book, a collection of breast photos contributed by volunteers that gives clients considering tattoos realistic shape, size, and color options. Some clients want to look exactly like they did before surgery and others choose what Black refers to lovingly on her Facebook page as “artistic boobs” covering their chest with colorful butterflies and scattered flower patterns. In a very short period of time, Black has expanded her subject matter expertise and spoken at educational forums, partnered with doctors at Richmond Plastic Surgeons, and been recognized by national publications including Bust for her work. “It’s a process that’s way bigger than me. While I appreciate everyone's love, I feel like I can't take total credit for it,” she says. “There are a lot of people involved and I'm just honored and grateful to be there for them,” she adds. She’s currently filling out paper work to take the Pink Ink Fund from a private donation fund to a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization which will enable her to accept larger donations and expand her scope beyond Richmond. “I think it’s important for where it's headed. It'll start statewide, then nationwide. I'm actually willing to let it go global because I think there's a need,” says Black. Needless to say, Black stays ridiculously busy juggling nipple tattooing with her clients at Trademark Tattoo. Voted Best Tattoo Artist by Style Weekly readers for three consecutive years, the thirty-eight year old is in high demand with appointments taken months in advance. She admits with a laugh that while her social life may have taken a small hit, she couldn’t be more satisfied with everything in her world. “I made a mental resolution long ago to focus on making a career for myself,” she says. “My life is my work now and that's my love. That fulfills me,” she adds.
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