Posted by: Necci – Sep 06, 2012
SustainRVA is a brand new local project created in a collaborative effort by several different creatively and environmentally minded local businesspeople. These people saw an opportunity to pool their collective resources, give back to the local community, and improve the environment in the Richmond area, while also forging deeper connections in the local creative scene and coming up with a creative, artistic result. All of these goals will be satisfied by SustainRVA's first local project, which is entitled Renew Richmond. RVA Magazine's John Reinhold got together with SustainRVA's Becky Lakin to learn more about SustainRVA, and what the Renew Richmond initiative is all about.
I'm here to talk about a new Richmond project which RVA Magazine is excited to be a part of. I'd like to learn more about it, the basis of how it began and what the plans are in the future. So Becky, Let's talk about what exactly Sustain RVA and Renew Richmond are. How do these work together?
SustainRVA is a group--I hesitate to call it an organization because it is certainly unofficial. It's three different businesses that combine their efforts to promote sustainability in our lovely river city: BioRide, Urban Grid, and Ellwood Thompson's. Essentially, I went to an event in Richmond--I can't remember what it was--and I had been trying to get in touch with Jeff from Bioride for a while, because I thought he could take what grease we had and fuel his cars. So I kind of stalked him there and got with him. He met me at the store a few weeks later and said, "I want to do a cleanup." I said, "I love cleanups!" But cleanups aren't generally very--
Right; I was going to say sexy. It's difficult to create interest. It seems oftentimes a cleanup is used to promote the groups that are putting it on, as opposed to generate participation, because they tend to be a little bit boring. So we were trying to fancy it up a little bit. So he and I start talking with Urban Grid on it too. I kept thinking, "Sustainable RVA, sustainable RVA," until I realized--you can't sustainable something, but you can sustain something. So it's SustainRVA. It's a group of these three businesses that are environmentally focused--Urban Grid by way of being a solar company.
Within that we decided to create this first-ever event. We were coming up with all these different ideas, like "Rock Your Block" or "Beautify Your City." We just kind of spewed terrible names on a piece of paper, and I sent them out. They all decided on Renew Richmond, which will take place in October. [It's] about creation. You can pick up trash on your block, you can pick it up at your business, you can plant a garden, or tend a garden that needs tending, you can do a number of things within the reason of the law, but anything that you think can help to beautify the city. Then while you are doing it, if you are artistically inclined, you take the trash you pick up and create artwork with that, and display it in a pop up exhibit location to be determined. I am not [artistically inclined], though I am going to give it a stab and see if I can create something.
I think that's one of the things that interests me about it, other than the idea of Renew Richmond in general. The cool thing about it is forming a team, so you're not by yourself. A team that gets together and goes, "Hey guys, this is what we're going to do as a team!" and finds an area to clean up and take pictures, document the experience, and make art out of it. The little extra push it provides, that if someone is artistically inclined, they can jump in and do that themselves. Like you said, I'm not super artistic in terms of making art, but I've always been involved with art. So I like the idea of that.
I do too. I can't really visualize space or what to do with something, but I think that's the beautiful thing about a team. It's about teamwork. There are different roles. Sometimes there's someone who can just create an idea from nothing. And then there's a person who can glom on to that idea and make it better. And then there's a person who pokes holes in that idea, and by the end of it you get a really cool idea. I think that's the benefit of creating teams. So if we go out there, you and I aren't artistically inclined but we have someone who is, and we're cleaning up, they might have the vision, and we can build up on that. We can work together and have more of an impact, and make cooler art.
So how does someone get involved? Where do you go? How do I join a team?
That is a great question, so, first steps: SustainRVA.com is a good place to go. You can also check SustainRVA on Facebook. The website is going to be a basic step by step of how you get involved. We don't want to make it confusing--[we want to] make it really simple. Go to the website and check out the details, the timeframe, and make sure you can do it. Then develop a team, get a group of people together--it can be a team of one. That is fine. It doesn't have to be a group of 20. Then create a team name, so you can be kind of fun there, send us a picture of your team and a picture of the place you hope to clean or beautify prior to the beautification, and then get cruising. The first two weeks in October are for cleanup, and then the creation of artwork if you'd like to. We just want to give people enough time. For example, if you know you are going to create artwork, it's going to take you several days, and you have a full time job, start cleaning up the very beginning of October to give you enough time to get it finished and get it to the exhibit location. Once you are done with it, you send in a picture of the [area] after [cleanup]. We have all of this posted on our website--all of the teams, all of the photos, the information about what they are doing throughout the process. They can send us videos, photos so that everyone can stay informed to what other folks are doing, and get some inspiration from other teams too. It's going to be fun.
So at the end of it all, we're going to have a place to put all the artwork, in whatever form they want to do it? It could be in the form of sculpture or made art, used materials. Or maybe the project itself is a form of art. Video can be a form of art, so maybe someone can make a video of their team doing it.
It would be really interesting somebody doing that. That would be great. I love these ideas. Any and all of that. The goal is that this is wildly successful. Success means we get a lot of involvement, and Richmonders are for it. That's what success is--that people have fun. That's it. That's the end goal. So if it's successful, we could get a ton of artwork. We don't want to turn anything away. This is on the website too--that if this artwork is offensive in nature, then we certainly have the right to turn it away.
Absolutely. I don't think we'll have that.
I don't think so either. [But] I have to explain these things just in case.
So for the artwork, there are going to be certain prizes for teams?
Yes. We have cleanup prizes and artwork prizes. Some for the best motivated team, or the most drastic change for the space. Then we will choose the others based on the most creative use of recycled material. The awards aren't going to be what's the most appealing to me, or us. It's going to be your use of materials, or creativity. There are going to be all different kinds of levels. What the prizes are…I don't know yet. I know they are going to be grand!
Hopefully there will be people who find places around Richmond that really need it. I personally am interested in doing some river cleanup. It really interests me because i know there are lots of areas that could use it.
I think that's great. And the James River Association has been really helpful in this too. Everyone has been really supportive. So yeah! River cleanup! Unfortunately, there are plenty of places to find that we can clean up and beautify. And its not just... I think people just like recognition too. I like recognition. I [like] the fact that everything is going to be posted online and on Facebook. So even if you don't win, your efforts are still going to be touted. I think it's going to have a big following, so if nothing else you get Richmond fame even if you don't win a prize.
Where do you hope to see this move in the future?
I don't know, I guess I'm going to have to see how it goes this time. I think we hope to see it as something that can continue on an annual basis, if not more than that. But if I get a little into pipe dream land, [my hope] is that Sustain RVA can be an organization that holds a lot of events that help Richmond for the better, that are creative and fun, and garner a lot of participation and following. That's like my big idea that I just stumbled upon. I didn't mean to. When Jeff and I first sat down, it was like, "We want to do a cleanup!" I wasn't thinking it was going to turn into this. I think there is a lot of opportunity, if you can make it fun and engaging and people want to do it. And I think Richmonders are really loyal to their city. I think that's going to play a huge role too.
Cool! So to wrap this up, check it out online, go form a team, get together and make some cool art!
Send everything to Becky@sustainRVA.com. Send pictures, team names, all of that, if you want to play. The first two weeks of October are for clean up and creation, then we'll deliver [the art] to the eco-art-popup site after the second weekend in October. Then the last two weeks are for the exhibit. We'll have Art On Wheels participating and helping with the exhibit. It's going to be a lot of fun. We'll do a grand opening launch of the exhibit in the third week of October. Everyone that is participating can come see all of the art.
For more info on Renew Richmond, how it works and how to get involved, click here: sustainrva.com/how-it-works, or check out this video tutorial:
John Reinhold is organizing a team to participate in the event as well--if you're interested in joining up with Reinhold's Warriors Of Waste, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview by John Reinhold
Introduction by Andrew Necci