RVA Mag: Best of Arts and Culture 2017

by | Dec 29, 2017 | ART

Looking back at 2017, it was such a whirlwind politically for the country, as well as for Virginia and Richmond, that it’s easy to forget that our city has such a vibrant, thriving, and unbelievably diverse culture. From muralists and other artists, to emerging fashion trends, to the ever-burgeoning local craft beer scene, to becoming a top food destination, and a plethora of up and coming bands spanning multiple genres, this year RVA Mag has seen some of the coolest and most interesting people shape and transform our culture as a city.

As Editor-in-Chief, we cover so much on a daily basis and we cross paths with so many wonderful and talented people living right here it was hard for me to narrow down what summed up our year in arts and culture best. I think, with the help of the rest of the RVA Mag crew, we’ve put together a great list that really captured the stories that stood out the most to us. Enjoy and see you in the New Year!

Citrus City’s Rise From Loose Online Origins to Solid Richmond Roots 

Started by Manny Lemus and his college buddy Rene Franco in 2014 to give a platform for bands they met and liked, this local indie record label has produced some of the coolest acts to come out of Richmond in some time. Putting out tapes for shoegaze group Fat Spirit, an EP for lo-fi slacker rock band Lance Bangs, the debut album for indie-rockers Camp Howard, and Antiphons, its been exciting to follow them see who they discover in our little city. And the label isn’t just churning out tapes for local musicians and bands, Citrus City has worked with such bands as the London-based Teen Brains and Madrid’s Lois. If the acts they introduce to us in 2018, are anything close to what we saw in 2017, music fans are in for a treat.

Emily Herr of “Her Suite”

in an effort to change media depictions of women as one-dimensional objects and one beauty standard, local artist Emily Herr started painting women in small murals all around Richmond in public spaces, on houses, and the sides of buildings. Back in the summer, Herr and her crew embarked on a “Girls! Girls! Girls!” tour, inspired by her original mural, to paint murals of as many real, everyday women as they could up the East Coast all the way to Burlington, Vermont.

It was so empowering to see a young artist giving women of all sizes, shapes, ethnicities, and ages a platform to feel beautiful and be represented in art on a large scale. Showing real women who aren’t a magazine’s or Hollywood’s stereotypical image of perfection made her a highlight for me to cover and with each mural, she’s changing not only the way the world views women, but the way we view ourselves one small step at a time and that made me super proud to cover for our magazine in a time when our political leaders, movie stars, and even our own president continue to disrespect and humiliate women.

RVA Mag Eats Grasshoppers at Flora 

Branching out a little from our normal restaurant coverage, RVA Mag got the chance to try out something a little weird and different back in June. Some of our staff visited Flora to eat one of their more interesting appetizers on their menu: grasshoppers. Chef Sergio Gomez, who has designed the menu after his hometown of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico, served up “Chapulines”, as they’re called, prepared with oil and spices and the crew washed it down with some fine mezcal. It was a weird day to say the least, but it was great to get out and try something new and unusual that Richmond has to offer. Probably won’t be the last weird food review you see on our site.

Candyland RVA: Confessions of A Former VCU Sugar Baby

This story came to us from former staff contributor Caley Sturgill, and it was beyond fascinating. VCU ranked 7th earlier this year for its number of students seeking out sugar daddies to help offset the cost of tuition. SeekingArragement.com is a website that connects sugar babies and sugar daddies and Sturgill happened to know a former VCU sugar baby so we had to reach out and get the lowdown. Sturgill did a wonderful job diving into “Ava”’s story, how the website and relationships usually work, and a look at why so many female college students resort to seeking out this sort of relationship.

Terracotta Soldiers, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

By far, one of the most mesmerizing and extensive exhibits this year and even to date to come to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was the Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China. Opening in November, the exhibit features 130 pieces of art including 10 life-style terracotta figures straight from  Xi’an, the capital of the Shaanxi province in China.

Meant to capture the strength of the Qin Dynasty and the First Emperor of Unified China, Ying Zhen, better known as Qin Shihuang, the exhibit is a rare opportunity for Richmonders to learn about that history as well as see the sculptures that they would not have had the opportunity to see anywhere else unless they’ve traveled overseas. Terracotta will be on display at the VMFA until March 11.

Chef Mike Ledesma

Chef Mike Ledesma was definitely one of the movers and shakers of 2017. One of the hardest working chefs I’ve met, his story of how he came to Richmond and helped open some of the most successful restaurants around made it into our Fall 2017 print issue. Head Chef for Richmond Restaurant Group for a few years, Ledesma designed the menus and helped open The Daily Kitchen & Bar, The Hardshell at Bellgrade, Pearl Raw Bar, East Coast Provisions. He’s most recently moved to Kabana Rooftop as Executive Chef serving up his take on seasonal dishes. The busy chef is also behind the Passport Popup Series that takes place once a month at Belle & James and in the middle of all this, and creating menus for pop up beer and cider dinners, he’s been planning a solo restaurant venture, Perch, which will open in Scott’s Addition in the New Year.

Virgil Ortiz

As part of the Hear My Voice exhibition at the VMFA, nationally recognized Native American artists were brought together to express the story of oppression by the United States government against their people. Through their art you can see the history and pride of the First People and the work of Virgil Ortiz touches on both the past and the future of Native American folk art. Having him within our pages of our Winter 2017 issue allowed us to understand the enormity of our past aggressions while contemplating his current work which addressed the struggle of his people today to keep their sacred lands and rituals from being wiped away completely. His is a fight to keep the very existence of the First People and one that Virginians should understand is not something in a far away land, but one happening in our own backyard.

Craft Beer Scene in 2017

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Our craft beer scene has been exploding for the last few years now and Richmond is getting more and more recognition nationally and internationally as a top beer destination. This year, though, I think was the year for craft beer. We saw a surge in Scott’s Addition again, with Vasen Brewing and Twisted Ales, Goochland’s Lickinghole Creek expanded with its Goodwater Brewpub in Shockoe Bottom, Garden Grove rebranded as a brewery and winery, Powhatan got its first brewery with Fine Creek Brewing Company, Center of the Universe opened its sister brewery, Origin Beer lab, also in Ashland, and Henrico got another brewery with Intermission. Chesterfield’s Steam Beer Works also announced expansion plans for its Fan brewery, Canon & Draw. We also saw Charlottesville-based Champion Brewing expand with a brewery here. Established breweries like Strangeways Brewing expanded to Fredericksburg, Richmond staple Legend Brewing opened a location in Portsmouth, and Hardywood expanded with a Charlottesville and Goochland location which will open this month. Manchester is slated to get its own brewery with Dogtown Brewing next year along with Tabol Brewing, a first for Northside.

RVA Mag has closely followed the ever-growing scene, and its plans for 2018 for it are already overflowing if you will, and hopefully the bubble doesn’t burst anytime soon because we can’t get enough of all the different styles and varieties.

McKinley Dixon

We can’t talk about the hot acts in the Richmond music scene in 2017 without mentioning McKinley Dixon. The young jazz/hip hop artist emerged onto the scene and picked up fans with his debut mixtape Who Taught You To Hate Yourself? And Dixon has played an important role in shaping the conversation in our current political climate with his music, which covers everything from racism, police brutality, and the struggles of the modern Black American. The artist already has another album in the works, The Importance of Self-Belief, which will focus on the perspectives of Black women and transgender individuals and based on his first mixtape and energetic, raw live performances, RVA Mag is expecting nothing but great things from Dixon.

VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art

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The big white oddly-shaped modern building that towers over the streets at the corner of Broad and Belvidere is one residents saw under construction for months and anticipated its unveiling, which is slated for this April 21. The arts center and museum, designed by NYC-based Steven Holt Architects, will showcase a fresh slate of changing exhibitions, performances, films and special programs and features a large entry space, a café, a sculpture terrace, and an auditorium that can hold up to 240 people. For a city, that has become known for its art with its ever-growing mural scene, the Richmond Mural Project, top-ranking art university, all sorts of galleries, and up and coming artists providing Richmond with their talent that spans all mediums, the ICA will put Richmond on the map for art for anyone who already didn’t realize what a thriving and vibrant arts community we have.

From House Shows to Egghunt Records, A Look At The Rise Of Camp Howard

Another band featured in one of our print mags, and one that RVA has been following almost since they started two years ago is eclectic indie rock group, Camp Howard. Songwriter Nic Perea and the rest of the gang sang their way into our hearts with the hazy, poppy “You’ve Been Misled”, the first single off their debut self-titled album, and have been captivating us with songs like “Llorando Y Furnando” and “She Doesn’t Mind” ever since. The four-piece gained prominence in the Richmond scene through house shows which led to them getting their first album recorded. After playing bigger shows with Egghunt Records acts Manatree and Avers, Camp Howard was able to land on the local label’s “Hatched” EP series, which would lead to them putting out their followup album Juice, their most creative yet, through Egghunt. Following this band’s success with two great albums under their belts and seeing their performances around this year has made them one of my favorite bands to watch this year and it leads me to believe that we are only going to see them blow up from here.

Stunting with Jason Levesque, The Resourceful Artist Known as Stuntkid 

As one of the few nationally recognized artists out of the Norfolk area, Jason Levesque touched on the struggle to make it as an artist in a region not built to support their own artists. With few places to exhibit and a lack of financially supportive or able patrons, what choice do these artists have but to leave for greener pastures? The formation of Norfolk’s NEON District is a step in the right direction for future artists but for the ones that have spent over a decade building a following the options are few, so they have to leave.

The Rise of An Epidemic: Opioids, Their Impact on Virginians, & Efforts to Combat the Growing Crisis

This was such a compelling story that one of our former contributors, Nidhi Sharma, spent weeks working on and it’s an issue that’s only plaguing the nation, but an epidemic that’s steadily been on the rise right here in our own backyard. Sharma did a wonderful job telling the personal and devastating story of a  young girl with an opioid addiction and her recovery. She also spoke with officials who run the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine who informed RVA Mag that every three weeks, 3,000 people die in the US from an opioid overdose. The article delves deep into the history of why doctors began prescribing them, the tremendous increase the amount getting prescribed over the years, and a fascinating look at how the drug affects someone’s body, breaking it down scientifically. Sharma also discusses addiction and what policies and bills Virginia officials are introducing to help combat the crisis. It was heartbreaking and eye-opening at the same time to read about one drug having such a powerful hold on so many people.

The Passing of Richmond Hip Hop Legend Honorable Sleaze

The death this past July of local rap veteran The Honorable Sleaze was a huge blow for the hip hop scene in RVA. Always an incredibly active participant in the scene, Sleaze was also valuable for his constant presence at the center of the discourse around hip hop locally and beyond. He had a strong social media presence through which he acted as both a provocateur for discussions of controversial issues and a well-informed critic and fan. Even bigger than the hole he’s left in the world of local music is the hole he’s left in the local cultural conversation–not to mention the one he’s left in the hearts of everyone who knew him.

Sunday Stroll: Our Love Affair With Books

Our Editorial Director Landon Shroder delved into Richmond’s rich literary history in a great piece this year included in our new weekend section, “The Sunday Stroll”. He takes an in-depth look at Black Swan Books and the authors, poets, and characters who make up the shelves at the longtime local bookstore and why, in a digital world with ever-changing technology, its still important, more than ever, to remember and understand the perspectives of those who came before us.


Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for RVAMag.com from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.

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