‘Beard Wars’ juxtaposes old and new at the Valentine

by | Mar 25, 2015 | POLITICS

Richmond beardos unite!

Richmond beardos unite! The Valentine is showcasing more Richmond culture than your shaved face knows what to do with when their new Beard Wars exhibit opens Thursday, 3/26.

RVA Beard League teamed up with photographer Terry Brown to create 23 modern day portraits matching the Valentine’s own Civil War general portraits.

Meghan Hughes, Curator of Archives at the Valentine and curator of Beard Wars, said the Civil War era makes a great juxtaposition for present day facial hair trends.

“It’s really taking a look, past and present, of the fashion and ways that you sort of express yourself through facial hair,” Hughes said.

“In the past couple of years facial hair has really made a comeback in terms of, not just in Richmond, but sort of nationally and internationally, men having a lot of fun with mustaches and beards and getting into grooming with product and having an interest sort of traditional barbershops, strait razors, that sort of thing.”

The idea came from Domenick Casuccio (Top image, bottom left), Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Valentine, proud owner of a fantastic ginger-beard, and a member of the RVA Beard League who’s portrait is part of the exhibit.

He said his first project at the Valentine in 2011 was a tattoo exhibition featuring strictly Richmond ink.

“That really got me thinking: what else is happening culturally in and around Richmond that we could do an exhibition around?” Casuccio said.

“I thought, well, I’m a member of the Beard League, well how cool would it be to do something around, or with the Beard League.”

Although beards have become a huge part of Richmond culture, our city’s southern roots had the fashionable facial-follicles as commonplace place during the Civil War.

“We kind of brain stormed and said ‘we weren’t really planning on doing anything for the Civil War Sesquicentennial,’” Casuccio said. “Why don’t we do an exhibition where there’s modern Richmond beard leaguers are imitating old photos in our collection of Civil War confederate generals?”

The RVA Beard League is a non-profit group celebrating facial hair on men and women, who are affectionately referred to as the RVA Whiskerinas. Yes, women have crafted their own fake beards and will also be featured in the Beard Wars exhibit.

Casuccio moved to Richmond in 2004 and started growing a beard.

“I learned about the Beard League and thought they were really interesting that it was not just this group of guys sitting around drinking beer and stroking their beards and talking about football,” Casuccio said. “They were really out there in the community and making a difference and meeting new people.”

The organization has events and competitions to benefit groups like Safe Harbor, Wounded Warriors and other community-oriented non-profits.

Hughes said they recruited Beard League members and had them pick a general a couple months ahead of time to start taming, or un-taming their whiskers to match.

Casuccio immediately thought of Ulysses S. Grant for his pairing because he’d written a history report about him in grade school.

“And plus, I have auburn-reddish hair and he was a red head and I have blue eyes and wear green contacts. But he had blue eyes so I kind of felt sort of kindred to him,” Casuccio said. “So when we decided I started immediately, literally not trimming not shaving and letting my beard grow in to look like Ulysses S. Grant.”

Both Casuccio and Hughes noted the other parts of the Valentine that may attract an even wider audience.

To compliment the Beard Wars exhibition, the Valentine will also have a variety of shaving accessories on display and other parts of their collection.

“We focus on the interpretation of Richmond history with the purpose of making it relevant today,” Hughes said about the Valentine.

This latest exhibit is just one more Richmond-centric event they are providing. They also have a core exhibit called “This is Richmond, Virginia,” which tells the story and the history and the culture of people in Richmond and one called “Made in Church Hill,” about what it’s like living there from different people’s perspective.

Casuccio said between history buffs and beard fans, the exhibit will be interesting for a wide audience.

“It’s something you can’t go anywhere else to see,” Casuccio said. “So I think if you have an appreciation for Civil War history or Richmond history or men’s facial hair, I think it’s an interesting take on the culture and what’s happening within Richmond. If anything, just to come out and check out the Valentine and our beautiful renovation and what we’ve been working on for this past year.”

The exhibit will be displayed on the first floor of the Valentine from March 26-Nov. 30.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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