Opinion: It’s Time For A New Richmond Arts And Business Class Relationship

by | Feb 8, 2024 | ART, DOWNTOWN RVA, OPINION, STREET ART

A few weeks ago, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that the Haxall Hydro Power Plant is slated to transform into a new pickleball court and food-and-beverage concept. Yet, what’s the fate of the RVA Street Art Festival and the art that is already there?

Over the years, the plant has been a vibrant venue for this festival, but its success contributed to its downfall. Wasn’t this inevitable? We’ve witnessed this cycle repeatedly. Artists breathe life into a location, drawing attention that developers view as an opportunity for profit. While we may grumble and gripe, the reality is that someone owns the location and has the authority to determine its future.

And at the end of the day, if you lack financial means, be prepared to step aside for progress.

Regardless, we’ve lost another space for local street art. Artists now face the daunting task of securing funding and resources to continue their work, once again, without city or corporate support.

Welcome to the next era of Richmond, where we’re no longer flying “under the radar”. Instead, we’ve become a “relocation destination” for those seeking a culturally rich environment, but like it or not, it will be on their terms, often at the expense of the DIY efforts of long-time residents and artists. As the cultural landscape evolves, how do we preserve what made this city desirable in the first place?

Maybe it’s time to establish genuine artistic partnerships with developers like Thalhimers, who have been profiting off the DIY creative class in Richmond for years, while artists struggle to make ends meet. Maybe the next step is a new business partnership, where developers contribute to a Richmond art fund, providing both financial support and potential spaces for artists. In return, artists would have the freedom to create without feeling exploited.

It’s a new Richmond after all, and it should be a Richmond for all.

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me




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