Grand Finale of RIC/RVA Brings It All Back Home

Last Wednesday, on the heels of a warm spring afternoon, the final chapter of the RIC/RVA history series was brought to a close. Eight weeks in the making this final eventwas the culmination of the process of discovery, learning, inspiration, and creativity that the series has come to represent. Over the last two months we've been privy to just how much revolution, innovation, and change there had been in the history of RVA. Not only have we educated ourselves i n our city's history, but we've had the rare opportunity to interact with that history on our own terms and discover something about ourselves in the process. It was within the walls of the Library of Virginia that we congregated once again for our final event.

Upon entering the rec eption area for this last edition of the series, you were struck by something instantly gratifying. No, I do no refer here to the free wine and snacks generously supplied by Floricane, but the final product of our first creative endeavor within the RIC/RVA series. As some may remember, and as I mentioned in my first post for the series(LINK), we sketched some ideas for posters that would accurately capture our sense of RVA, something that we would want to share with out-of-towners. After weeks of production and design the final product was exceptional. Clear in the eyes of attendees was a pride and interest that was enjoyable to watch.

After some poster admiration, and a little wine to loosen the gears, the group of near 50 participants moved into the auditorium for the night's main features. John reintroduced the concept behind the series - to begin reexamining the story we've told about Richmond, and to perhaps find a new story to tell. He then engaged the group for feedback as to their favorite events, worst moments, and new discoveries made. Not surprisingly, the response was overwhelming positive.

It was then that the historians had a chance to give their peace on the series as a whole. Bill Martin, of the Valentine Richmond History Center, Gregg Kimball, of the Library of Virginia, and Christy Coleman, of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar all highlighted their experiences. Bucking the formal panel seating that was arranged for them, the three sat feet dangling off the stage, a few steps away from the front row. While each gave a wholly unique version their thoughts on the series, most notable was their admission that the events gave them an opportunity to explore history in a different way than they are accustom. It seemed that over these weeks we turned from proper chronology, instead investigating feeling and purpose more than date recollection. The gist, it seemed, was that a new way of telling our story was beginning to form.

The night culminated in a series of eight videos submitted by local Richmonders, highlighting a sense of what their RVA looked like. Peter Fraser, Becky Carey, Myself, Jonathan Hirsh, Sheena Jeffers, and David Kalman all submitted to the nights visual candy. Giving a wide perspective of RVA, we saw kids skateboarding with their dad, an artist at work, a look at a hopeful future, and the last hours at a local bar. Indeed, we had arrived at an interesting story of Richmond. One that was crafted from the unique lives each of us leads, and the community space we share.

Wrapping up the evening, participants were given the chance to give their opinion of the series. There was one unifying sentiment that pervaded the room: optimism. It was clear that this series had accomplished its goal, a new story was indeed developing. With participation and optimism there isn't much that cannot be accomplished, and the RIC/RVA history series was only the beginning.