HOLMBERG: How many offbeat murals are enough for RVA?

Posted at 12:08 AM, Jul 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-10 08:41:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Since the beginning of the mural surge in RVA, I’ve been doing stories, filming, climbing scaffolds, interviewing the local painting stars and the famous ones who have come from around the world to share their art and vision with a town than has appeared stodgy, despite its artsy, edgy rep.  (Thanks largely to our music scene and Virginia Commonwealth University’s art schools.)

Between the Richmond Street Art Festivals and the Richmond Mural Project – which just finished another round of murals and is shooting for another 40 or so – there are well over 100 murals in the River City.

More than a few cover eyesore walls and buildings.

Many business and property owners volunteer their walls.

Collectively, they’re supposed  to brand Richmond as a cool, art city, a visual destination that captures the essence of the worldwide mural movement.

(You can see the vision of the Richmond Mural Project here:

But here’s a question I don’t hear anyone else asking:

When is enough?

I know I’m sticking my neck right into the hipster guillotine, but I’ve soaked most of them up and am feeling pretty full.

Maybe it’s because – to me – most of them don’t seem very warm. I’m not feeling heart. I feel this cool (if not cold) blend of graffiti, tattoo art and sci-fi, absolutely beautifully rendered for sure, but oh-so quirky and edgy and ambiguous.

Yes, art is subjective. And I guess I have terrible taste in art for not loving all of these. (Yes, I do really like some.)

Everyone has different tastes. That’s the beauty of art museums. They bring in different artists and styles to challenge and thrill and engage us. And, yes, sometimes make us uncomfortable.

And then the exhibit changes. Or we can walk to the next room.

These murals are right there. Adjusting the feng shui of our city in a longtime way - tattooing it, if you will - without the same kind of process that public art typically has to go through.

Anyone who knows me at all knows I prefer things to be somewhat renegade. The little public art that has been put up through the usual committees and juried competitions has left me way colder than these murals have.

The question here isn’t really whether these murals are art.

It’s how many are enough?

Most of the younger people I’ve talked with say they’d love to see a lot more.

What do you think?

It’s a conversation worth having. Even though these paintings are the work of the individual artists, they also represent RVA.