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Two horizontal rows with six squares each under the word 'directory.' Under each square is an artist's name, medium, bio and contact info

Richmond artists promote work in new directory and studio event this weekend

on October 31, 2023

Lauren Ari proudly calls herself a Richmond artist. It’s where she has lived and sculpted and drawn for more than 20 years. It’s also where she finds support, among dozens of other artists who have made the same decision. 

“I always had that fantasy of, ‘Oh, one day I’ll move to the country and all my friends will move with me and we’ll have an artist commune and life will be great,’” she said. “And I thought to myself, ‘Who are you kidding?’ One day I said, ‘You know, I just want to make my community here.’”

Visual Artists of Richmond has united that community. The advocacy group launched in July to create more opportunities for local artists. The organization hosts bi-monthly gatherings for artists to network, share ideas and talk about the challenges of being a practicing visual artist. Locations rotate around Richmond to expose artists to the city’s various art spaces. 

The group has attracted about 50 members, according to its website, some of whom will be opening their Richmond studios to the public this weekend.

Black and white map of Richmond from Key Blvd to the East, Carlson Blvd. to the west, McBryde Ave to the North and Macdonald Ave to the South (Macdonald is misspelled as McDonald), in that five-black square, six artists' studios are marked with a circle.

Richmond Open Studios

What: Artists will open their studios to the public, for free.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: See points on the map to the left or on the Visual Artists of Richmond website.

A list of VAR members can be found in a new  directory of artists who live or work in Richmond. The directory includes artists’ biographies and mediums, photos of their work and contact information. It allows users to create and edit profiles free of charge. VAR co-founder Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez hopes it will save artists the money and time it takes to promote themselves

“A lot of artists cannot even afford the roughly $400 that it takes to maintain a website on the internet,” she said. “Some people say, ‘I know what I have to do, I just can never get around to it because I’m fighting for my survival here.’”

The group formed out of conversations the city initiated with about 50 artists who shared their opinions with the city’s Public Art Advisory Commission earlier this year. The city plans to use their responses to shape how it supports and promotes public art. 

From left, Erin McLuskey Wheeler in jean jacket and blue and white long skirt clutching a black handbag; Brian Conery dressed in black with black cap and black rimmed glasses; Lauren Ari, kneeling with a blue button-down shirt and gray pants, a blue hairband over dark hair and holding up a sheet of paper that says something about Visual Artists of Richmond; Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez in a white tophat, black top and floral skirt, holding a giant hand with the word 'enough' written across it, and Irene Wibawa wearing a hot pink T-shirt and white pants, with short white hair. They all are standing in front of a wall of various paintings.
From left, Erin McLuskey Wheeler, Brian Conery, Lauren Ari, Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez, and Irene Wibawa of Visual Artists of Richmond. (Courtesy of Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez)

Garcia-Gonzalez  said the organization represents artists taking matters into their own hands. 

“Even though VAR was born after a difficult brainstorming session with a group of outside consultants, our group of artists decided that our energy would be better spent building an artist advocacy organization rather than pointing out what needs improvement,” she said. “We have all done that at one point or another and decided to try a different approach, to be the change we want to make.”

Illustrator Jacqueline Sarah Brown said Richmond’s strong creative scene made her want to get involved with VAR. 

“I think it was really nice to be a part of something that other people are already part of,” she said. “A place feels empty without a community, you know?”

(This story was updated to correct information about the scope of VAR’s work.)

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