VMFA announces RVA Community Makers, events
Free Press staff report | 1/25/2024, 6 p.m.
For the sixth year, RVA Community Makers will honor African-American leaders from various fields. The annual community-activated art project will be unveiled by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, and will remain on display until March 16.
Hamilton Glass, RVA Community Makers lead artist, will conduct a hands-on workshop with local community members on Sunday, Feb. 4, to design a quilt-inspired paper collage. That work will be displayed alongside a quilt by Richmond textile and portraiture artist Unicia Buster, who will use her medium to share the stories and passions of this year’s honorees.
Mr. Glass’ career as an artist stems from his architecture and design background. Despite working in the architecture field for seven years, his passion for public art pushed him to start a career as an artist.
He enjoys creating multilayered projects that amplify many voices, and, in 2020, he founded two large projects, “Mending Walls” and “All In Together,” which were created to address the civil unrest and pandemic raging in our country.
Ms. Buster earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s in art from George Mason University. She is a recipient of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Artist Fellowship and has exhibited throughout Richmond and Virginia, as well as in New York, Italy, Washington, D.C., and South Carolina.
She previously worked as a graphic designer for the Richmond Free Press and as an art specialist for VCU Health. She currently is the program manager for Richmond’s 1708 Gallery.
The 2024 RVA Community Makers are:
• J. Dontrese Brown led the historical movement to rename Richmond’s Boulevard to Arthur Ashe Boulevard and helped make Cristo Rey Richmond High School a reality for underserved youths. He serves on a number of boards, including as chair for Urban Hope and vice chair of the Richmond Public Library and earned graphic design degrees from Georgetown College, Morehead State University and Savannah College of Art & Design.
Most recently, he co-founded “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a virtual reality exploration of overlooked sites around our nation that tell the story of the Black experience throughout America’s history.
• Elvatrice Parker Belsches is a public historian, archival researcher, author and filmmaker. The Richmond native lectures locally and nationally on the Black experience in history. Her work can be seen in the Steven Spielberg motion picture “Lincoln.” Her creation of the Historic Jackson Ward Podcast Tour earned her the Maggie L. Walker Heritage Award in 2010 and she was recognized as a runner-up for the Journalistic Integrity and Community Service Award by the Virginia Press Association in 2016 for her three-part series “When Freedom Came,” which was commissioned by the Richmond Free Press.
• Ana F. Edwards is a public historian living and working in Richmond. She is a co-founder of Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, serves on the editorial board of The Virginia Defender newspaper and, along with husband Phil Wilayto, launched the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project. The project promotes the history, reclamation, and memorialization of Gabriel’s Rebellion and Richmond’s first municipal African Burial Ground, and of the Shockoe Bottom district, once the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade.
• Lauranett Lee, is the inaugural director of Race and Social Justice at Richmond Hill, an ecumenical retreat center, and sole proprietor of consulting firm L.L. Lee & Associates. As the founding curator of African American history at the Virginia Historical Society (now the Virginia Museum of History and Culture), she was part of the team that created “Unknown No Longer,” a genealogy database to help descendants find their ancestors. She serves on the Dr. Martin Luther King Commission, among other volunteer initiatives, and teaches at the University of Richmond where in 2019 she directed its investigation of slavery, race and segregation in the institution’s history.
• Brian Palmer is a Peabody Award-winning visual journalist based in Richmond. His work has appeared in the New York Times and other publications, and on PBS and the BBC. He was awarded a Ford Foundation grant for “Full Disclosure,” a 2009 video documentary about his three media embeds in Iraq with 1st Battalion/2nd Marine Regiment. Since 2014, he and wife, Erin Hollaway Palmer, have been part of volunteer efforts to reclaim East End Cemetery, a historic African-American burial ground in Henrico County, from nature, neglect and vandalism.
For more information about this, and other events happening at the VMFA during Black History Month, please visit https://vmfa.museum