Celebrating Richmond’s creative streak

Posted at 7:26 AM, Jul 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-14 07:27:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. – It was a Tuesday night and a gaggle of C3 board members were beginning to gather for their monthly meeting. Some arrived fresh from the office, others fresh from their latest creative pursuit.

Carl Johnson arrived with an idea. Shortly into the meeting he pitched it. The concept was simple, but the impact was lasting.

Richmonders have always known that this is a region brimming with talent, 11 RVA Makers (a group of local artisans), and companies and more known on a national scale. What better way to truly celebrate those actively making and creating than an event focused completely on creativity in the region?

“With all of the competition out there today, it really takes creative distinction to succeed,” Johnson said about the idea that was beginning to take shape. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs in RVA with great business ideas, and there is a lot of great creative talent. Let’s have an event that brings them together and celebrates creativity in Richmond.”

And with that, the RVA Creativity Awards were born.

From Johnson’s idea evolved a team of 20 volunteers, six judges, 11 local artisans, and a variety of local businesses donating resources and time to produce the RVA Creativity Awards. With award events a plenty in Richmond, the team knew that it had to set itself apart from start to finish. Every detail was considered, starting with the way the award itself was made.

To ensure that the honor was truly unique, 11 RVA Makers quickly went to work on handcrafting a series of awards—each different from the next—that represented their interpretation of creativity in their chosen medium.

Cathy “Copper Wrangler” Vaughn, one of the RVA Makers responsible for crafting an award, said her goal was to “capture the energy and motion of creative fire.”

“So many people are doing great things right here in RVA,” she explained. “This is my stoke for that fire.”

Brian Korte’s award, made of LEGO bricks, was inspired by inspiration itself.

“I was thinking of what to make that captured imagination, and when the light bulb went off, the idea I had was a light bulb,” he said.

With the awards prepared and waiting for worthy awardees, the C3 team went to work setting the stage at the historic Hippodrome—a fitting venue to celebrate creativity. To keep the crowd buzzing, organizers collaborated with Center of the Universe Brewing and Madison + Main to create a special cask beer.

Local artisans were also asked to display their creations while Greater Richmond Grid showed off its community 3D printer. And outside, local pedicab company Spoken4 was lined up for bike rides to and from the event.

While the pre-event team considered every detail, a team of judges, all of whom are respected in their own creative pursuits, poured over an impressive display of talented nominees.

With 114 applications, it was tough to choose 10 winners. Judges included Karen Booth Adams, Robby Demeria, Chris Gatewood, Lucy Meade, Karri Peifer, and Bob Tarren.

“With 114 entries, reading each entry was a discovery of pioneering, thinking, and doing in so many sectors: arts, technology, medicine, research, product development, nonprofits, education, sports, and personal passions,” Meade, director of marketing and development for Venture Richmond, said.

“The applications for this year’s RVA Creativity Awards prove that there’s an overwhelming amount of talent, innovation and, of course, creativity running through Richmond,” Peifer, editor at, said.

On the day of the big event, the ceremony opened with a performance by Richmond Hoop Mafia followed by keynote speaker Matt Ruby, who poked fun at the start-up culture while mixing in a handful of genuine tips for launching a successful start up. In between Ruby’s comedy routine the winners were unveiled.

Top honors went to Richmond Cycling Corps, Coffitivity, RVA Street Art Festival, OutRVA, Light Tape, VCU da Vinci Center, Boaz & Ruth, Batter Up, RAINRAPS™ and Light of Human Kindness.

“The RVA Creativity Awards were a great way to celebrate not just award winners, but RVA’s creativity and innovation as a whole,” Lisa Dance, C3 board chair, explained. There are so many people in Richmond doing incredibly interesting and innovative things. That’s something to celebrate.”

Ryn Bruce, founder of Batter Up, said that she’s lived up and down the East Coast—from Vermont to New York City to D.C. to Savannah—and she has never experienced a city that embraces creativity the way that Richmond does.

“Creativity runs through the city’s veins and powers us. To be recognized in this way, alongside this field of artists and creators, is a huge honor,” Bruce said.

C3 organizers insisted that the story of this year’s RVA Creativity Awards is not over. C3 planned to create a post-event electronic brochure to demonstrate Richmond’s vibrant creative community.

“I hope the RVA Creativity Awards will be an ever-changing celebration of the creative things people and organizations in Richmond do every day,” Dance concluded.

This story was originally published in Richmond GRID magazine.  

Launched in July of 2009, Greater Richmond Grid has profiled living, working and playing in the region.

With an eye on innovation, inspiration and individuals’ accomplishments in Richmond’s business, retail, arts and entertainment, the magazine and its website ( strive to profile the area’s creative vibrancy and authentic character.