Thursday, June 24, 2010

Visiting my hometown

I recently made a brief visit home to Richmond, Va. and decided to note some of my highlights :)

Above is the historic Italianate Robinson House (ca.1850) which sits across from the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. It's had a life as a country house, headquarters for Confederate Veterans until 1940, the original home of the Va. Institute for Scientific Research (1949-'60s) & the Museum's Studio School until 1993. It's currently being used for storage until needed improvements are completed. *VMFA's vision is to renovate and open the Robinson House as a regional tourist information center on the main floor with the upper floors dedicated to the study of American art.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has doubled it's space and looks fantastic!! It's welcoming, bright and admission is free :) A nice surprise when you're accustomed to paying $20.00 to enter most museums in NYC. The expansion is the largest in the museum's history and adds more than 165,000 square feet to the pre-existing 380,000 square foot building. Work began in the fall of 2005 and just reopened on May 1st, 2010.

Here is the entryway, filled with natural light, from end to end and top to bottom. This Sol Lewitt sits on one end soaking up the sun in front of the new & tasty Best Cafe :)

This painting was on exhibit in the American Art collection in the new James and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing which incudes major works by John Singer Sargent, William Turner, Childe Hassam, James Whistler, Mary Cassatt and other great painters.

Below is part of the original building which holds their extensive collection of mid to late 20th Century Art. Included are important works by Philip Guston, Richard Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler, Donald Judd, Andy (of course!) Cy Twombly, Cindy Sherman and so many more!

I love glass elevators :)

Best Cafe was a delightful space in which to enjoy coffee and snacks. There is also a lovely looking new restaurant called Amuse on the 3rd level.

Nice stream-lined clean bathrooms :)

At the opposite end of the entryway is "Large Leaping Hare" by Barry Flanagan, suitably leaping in front of the large window looking out onto the Boulevard.

The Virginia Museum opened in 1936 as the 1st US art museum to be chartered by a state. It remains state supported and privately endowed. The expansion was designed by London-based Rick Mather Architects in partnership with Richmond firm, SMBW. Additional highlights include a new atrium, sculpture garden, plaza, expanded library and class/workshop areas. Currently on exhibit is Tiffany: Color and Light, Matisse, Picasso, and Modern Art in Paris, German Expressionist Art, and American Art from the McGlothlin Collection. It was great to see the museum completed and looking so fresh!!

Onto food, always a favorite topic of mine :) This colorful mural lines the alleyway next to Joe's Inn, a tried and true gem in the heart of the Fan district. It's a casual Mediterranean restaurant with some of the best tomato sauce I've ever had! I recently became a fan of their large Greek Salad and perfect House Vinaigrette (it's special and they won't give away all of the ingredients).

Joe's Inn now owns Shields Market, which is where you pick up your yummy take-out order :) I lived a few blocks from here when I was at VCU and it was an easy place to pick up the basics. It looks a lot cuter than it did in my day and now carries top quality products.

Apropos Roasters Coffee, delicious!

Now, for my new favorite pizza! 81/2 on Strawberry Street is owned by the masters behind two of the best Italian restaurants in Richmond, Mamma Zu in Oregon Hill and Edo's Squid in the downtown fan area.

It's soooooo simple and there's not even cheese?! I adore the Red Pizza, a wonderful flat bread with a slightly spicy tomato sauce and your choice of toppings from anchovies, capers, mushrooms, green peppers, olives, onion, pepperoni, sausage or tuna. For me, it's mushrooms and it is absolutely delicious!! The White Pizza (Fontina cheese, also spicy) is quite good, too!

Below is the non-descript Mamma Zu :)

I've included Strawberry Street Cafe bc I worked here my last year of college. It's also a great stand-by that's been around forever (or since I started going with my parents at about 12 years of age) It was one of the 1st restaurants I became aware of as a cool downtown spot. Growing up in suburbs, early on I enjoyed imagining my grown up urban lifestyle that would include places like this ;) Known for it's large antique bathtub that sits right in front with an endless array of salad choices, it even showed up as a question on Jeopardy!

I always take Monument Ave to make my way downtown. It's cobble stoned and filled with beautiful monuments and incredible homes in varied architectural styles. I wish I had more photographs, but these two houses below give you an idea of the variation.

I still love the fan area of Richmond and the tan building below is where I lived during my junior and senior year of college. It was a large basement apartment on Grove Ave that got a fair amount of light bc it was not all that low. It was a convenient location, within walking distance from my classes and shops and restaurants, although like most Richmonders, I often drove ;)

This church was and still is across the street. I never made it in, but my great grandmother used to belong to it.

Above is Landmark Theater on N. Laurel in the fan across from my sophomore dormitory. It used to be called The Mosque and was built in 1926. You can read a bit about it's history and view some cool old performance photos of Frank Sinatra, Louis Jordan, Jimi Hendrix and backstage pics of Elvis at Scotty :D

Parts of the fan district remind me of Brooklyn, on a much smaller scale, of course.

VCU has established itself as one of the best art schools in the country. It continues to be ranked the #1 public university of arts & design by US News and World Report. I can't take all the credit, but I'll take some ;D

Anderson Gallery is owned and run by VCU. Some of you may have read my post on the brilliant teacher, Richard Carlyon, last Fall. The gallery recreated his studio as part of his retrospective.

These two buildings are situated next to Anderson Gallery and I know nothing about them. They definitely stand out from other buildings in the area!

Liked this orange truck above :'D

I fell in love with Quirk when I went in last Fall! The gallery exhibits work by young and established artists, while the shop sells a selection of fabulous paper goods, gift items, jewelry and more!

Blue Q produces the very best in kitsch! Their products are well made and they do pop like no one else. Mighty Michelle Shopper above is a must-have ;D

These looking glass and cocktail earrings are by Jill Schwartz and I'm a fan of all of her pieces for sale at Quirk! She's done a cute set of "Little Women" studs, too. Their jewelry collection is all very nice, her style just happens to appeal to me most :)

I also love the Small Object and have purchased from Sarah at the Renegade Craft Fair in the past. I'm happy to see stores carrying her products! This is a thumbprint note card set.

Located downtown on Broad Street, this area was in need of some fresh new life! There seem to be a fair number of shops, galleries and cafes starting to spring up. I hope it continues.

Finally, It's terrific to see some of the beautiful old houses down in Oregon Hill and Church Hill being renovated. It's a historic and charming part of Richmond that was once known more for crime than anything else. The revitalization has been going on for some time now and it's still scattered, but I love these neighborhoods, so again, hope the growth continues.

Thanks for taking a look at my hometown of Richmond, Va. I plan to share more from another favorite destination there, Carytown & surrounding soon!

*Thank you to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts facebook administrator for filling me in on the history of the Robinson House. I look forward to seeing the re-opening of it!
Feel free to "Like" the VMFA on facebook yourself, I did :)

xo, Allyn


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