We are happy to announce that we have received a $5,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to publish a book about the effects of urban growth in Charlottesville. The book will feature paintings by Richard Crozier, a local artist, as well as five essays written by different Virginia academics.
The VFH also provided local organizations Ash Lawn-Highland and the Jefferson School Foundation with grants. They aim to support projects and organizations that promote the humanities in Virginia and enrich cultural life.
We had a brief conversation with Deborah McLeod from Chroma Projects, who we are sponsoring to author the book.
What inspired you to come up with the book?
The inspiration to do the book came from making a studio visit to Dick Crozier’s studio early last February. I was looking for certain themes in Dick’s paintings for a show I curated back then – Books Being as Buildings; Buildings Being as Books. That is when I realized the extensive amount of work Dick had, piled high in every nook and cranny. There were 30+ years worth of one man’s mission to capture the soul of Charlottesville, like a parent who diligently notches the door jam as each child grows.
I told Dick that this long lived effort of his was stunningly impressive and really should be documented in a significant and beautiful book. That was how it began. I contacted Andrew Wyndham at the VFH, just to run the thought by him since I knew him and felt comfortable doing that, and he guided me to David Bearinger, who runs their grant program.
At the opening reception for Books Being as Buildings, I mentioned my project to Richard Guy Wilson, who very generously offered to write an essay for the book. From that point on I was on a trajectory to follow each requirement that the VFH asked of me, and to seek out a few other knowledgeable voices to give the book additional perspective and richness. To that end I discovered Steve Thompson, a local archaeologist, and I called upon an “old” friend, Justin Sarafin, head of Preservation Virginia, who then introduced me to historian Laura Knott.
What is your vision for the book? How do you want it to turn out?
My foremost vision is for this book (Repository of Missing Places) to honor Richard Crozier for his life of gentle and heartfelt work. His concentration is not on the usual grand estates and iconic columned homes of our area. This body of work is about the compact worker housing and the inference of its simple lifestyle, the modest neighborhoods and communities, and now closed small businesses that once employed many of the residents. Dick paints all of this with such nobility and beauty. It is a gift, a biographical portrait that he gives those houses as they pass, and to us to see them with different eyes.
So that is my hope for the book, for it to beautifully, thoughtfully and permanently cannonize these places – these elegant, breathy paintings of them. And further it is possibly a means to think about how to plan, reroute, reclaim and sustain existing housing and neighborhoods. To this end, the book is planned as a catalyst for a travelling exhibition of the paintings and the book to universities and institutions where there are historic preservation, urban planning and architectural history departments. That part of the vision is to use the book and the show as a conversation starter. (The book will be gifted to their libraries as well.)
We will ever continue tearing down such derelict seeming places to build more upscale homes and condos, clear their lots of junk trees and pave for adequate off street parking. This is what we do. Yet, these little worn down, imperfect houses still had/do have shelter to offer to many who cannot reach for more. That is the secondary question that sleeps in the turned up soil where their foundations were/are, in Richard Crozier’s paintings, in the book, and in the travelling exhibition.
What is the significance to you of having received this grant from the VFH?
The significance of being awarded a grant from the VFH is tremendous. To begin with, it is hard to know where to even start into a project like this. The VFH is like a benevolent godmother, who listens and then decides on an effort’s worthiness. Hearing that our project has worth in their esteem, has given me the fortitude to persevere. This is hard business for a newcomer to it, lots of darkened hallways to grope one’s way along. VFH validation of one’s idea is not only a statement to all to take it seriously, but they continue to serve as a guidepost as well. As equally as I do, they too want a beautiful, intelligent result that will carry their name.
And finally I want to express my deepest appreciation for PCA’s partnership as the project’s fiscal agent. All the work that the PCA does to shelter Charlottesville in culture is threaded and glued into the spine of the book. Every sale of the book will create proceeds for the PCA, which just continues the good that Richard Crozier began to create 30 years ago.
For more information about the VFH grants, click here.