Crossroads Art Center: Art Happens in Richmond
Crossroads Art Center is a fine art and crafts gallery located in Richmond. The gallery exhibits the works of emerging and established artists in the mid-Atlantic region. Crossroads was founded by Jenni Kirby in 2002 and the center currently represents over 225 local and regional artists in all type of media. Kirby also recently founded BuyRVAart.com, an online guide to the visual and performing arts in the Richmond area. Sign up for the RVA art newsletter here to find out what’s going on with the arts in Richmond!
Crossroads will be hosting an open house and artist reception on Friday, September 16, 2016. The opening includes a collage exhibition by The Virginia Collage Society, a Richmond landscape and architecture exhibit from www.BuyRVAart.com, and an exhibit by Crossroad’s Wednesday Night Painting Group. A silent auction will benefit Henrico CASA. The opening is from 6:00pm to 9:00pm on September 16 and the show runs through November 6. Read our interview with Jenni below and learn more about how Crossroads Art Center is enhancing the art scene in Richmond!
I know that you create mosaic art yourself, which is sort of an unusual medium these days—what led you to this type of artwork? And how did you progress from creating and teaching to developing Crossroads Art Center?
I first started doing mosaics when I lived in Orlando. It was great therapy because I was going through a divorce—I made a great connection with Michelle Petno, who taught the class. She called me and asked if I wanted to take a class about how to teach mosaic making. Shortly after, I moved up to Richmond.
In Richmond, VMFA hired me to teach classes at VisArts. I was also part of a group at the Shockoe Bottom Arts Center. The arts center building got bought and was moving to Petersburg, so we formed a group to start looking for new places. That’s when Crossroads started. We’ve been running for 14 and a half years and have expanded over the years.
How do you think the art scene in Richmond is different from other places you’ve been?
The arts scene in Richmond is phenomenal! Organizations like CultureWorks are helping drive this vibrant arts community in Richmond, and people want to move here and work here because of the arts scene. There are things to here other than work—people want to live here and experience the art and the culture. It acts as a clearing house for funds that are raised through corporate, personal and county donations and the organization gives out grants to visual and performing arts groups in the areas. CultureWorks is an umbrella for all the visual and performing arts and many area businesses are enthusiastic—Dominion Power, for example, is a big supporter of the arts in Richmond.
Are there any new classes, programs or partnerships at Crossroads that you would like people to know about?
[In terms of classes,] Chuck Larivey is doing what we call “Swimming in Paint with Chuck.” He gives everyone a picture of what the class is going to paint that week, and everyone paints along with him. It’s oil painting. He paints really loosely—he doesn’t draw it out first. Other teachers have said the technique helps them loosen up. Goldfish, landscape, horse, model - every week it’s something different.
We always have ongoing classes—about 6 different teachers who teach every week. More of our classes are during the day or on weekends. We’ll bring in instructors from around the country for workshops—they offer everything: painting, encaustic, silk paintings, soap making.
[In terms of other community partnerships,] we recently paired with NPR and PBS to help produce their “Virginia Currents” storytelling show. The other one is the Richmond Realtor’s association—they partnered with a graphic design comapany called PUNCH and they made travel posters. We’ve sold over 300, they’re all only about $10 and they’re fun! We’ve also partnered with ART108, Art on Wheels, and a lot of Richmond area galleries to help push more traffic to their art openings. I like to leverage the Buy RVA Art to help them and other organizations in the community as well.
Do you have any events coming up at Crossroads in September?
Coming up on September 16th from 6:00pm – 9:00pm is an art opening. This is our biggest opening of the year and we partner with Henrico CASA. We’ll have a huge auction that night to raise money for them, with about 1,500 people attending. We also partner with the YWCA of Richmond, UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), The Richmond Symphony, and the Richmond ASPCA.
Crossroads represents over 225 artists—how do you see Crossroads growing or changing over the next few years?
One thing we see with art now, it that people are going digital. People go online and look at artwork before they walk in the door. That’s in part why I created the BuyRVAart.com. Richmond needed an umbrella website where people could see arts events online in one place.
There is a huge section of artists in Richmond who want sell online. This is a way for older or non-savvy artists to sell art online. I am on the board of CultureWorks—Buy RVA Art and CultureWorks have been working together for the past year to help promote art in Richmond online.
Which types of artwork are the most popular or sell best at Crossroads?
Lots of portraits. We have pottery, jewelry, woodworking, furniture, but the majority of what we sell are paintings.
Are there any examples of emerging artists who stand out in your mind as having benefitted from Crossroads in a way that they may not have been able to, had the center not existed?
Chuck Larivey is definitely one of them. He moved back to Richmond from being in California because his mother in law was here, and he’s in his 70s. Holly Markhoff has been able to be discovered by other galleries in Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia because of the connection with Crossroads. Same with Dwayne Craiger—he had been doing graphic design and started painting, and now he’s been found in DC and other places and some pretty famous people have bought his paintings.
Is there anything else you would like folks to know about Crossroads?
We have Sam Anderson who’s going to be running educational classes on social media. These workshops will help artists with social media from an artist’s standpoint. The date is TBA, likely in October. We’ve recently gone into partnership with the World Art Group. They are Richmond-owned and they have artists create original artwork. Then they sell the framed prints around the world, for hotel rooms, businesses etc.