Exhibitor Profile: The Visual Arts Center of Richmond

The Visual Arts Center of Richmond (VisArts) has helped adults and children explore their creativity and make art since 1963. Each year, the organization touches the lives of more than 33,000 people through its classes, exhibitions, community outreach programs, camps, workshops and special events. Each year, VisArts offers more than 800 visual and creative arts classes in clay, wood, fiber, painting, photography, glass, metal, drawing, writing, decorative arts and other visual media. VisArts is also home to a letterpress studio, a printmaking studio, and bookmaking classes. 

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What is VisArts' relationship to the world of art book publishing?

VisArts does not publish art books. However, we do align with the world of art book publishing a few other ways. We publish professional catalogs of the exhibitions in our gallery. Our gallery focuses on artists using elevating the materials and processes represented within our studios. We also support artists and offer classes, workshops and studio access to our community. Those who create books can learn more about bookmaking, paper-making, letterpress, printmaking, digital media, photography and other related processes and topics to inform their bookmaking practices.

Why art books? 

For the purposes of our project and exhibition for CURRENT Books, we are being generous to participating artists and inviting them to categorize their work as a book, zine or book-inspired object in the way they see fit. We predict to see many handmade artists books in miniature form as well as zines, as well as some book-inspired arts objects that may fall somewhere in between. We think artists books are a unique art form with a long and varied history that should be celebrated. Publishing is an important practice for artists, just as exhibiting may be. Creating an artist book or zine is an intimate way for somebody to interact with and own a piece of art.  

Are there any organizations or people in your community that have been particularly influential to you and your project?

Part of VisArts’ mission is to elevate the work and voices of artists in our community and educate the public about art and how it’s made. CURRENT Books provides the perfect way for VisArts to participate and fulfill this mission by highlighting local artists, both emerging and established, who are working with the book form within their work. This project is also a way to re-introduce Richmond to the Art-o-Mat.

Our Art-o-Mat at VisArts is one of many refurbished cigarette machines across the country that sell miniature works of art. As an organization, Art-o-Mat encourages art consumption, expands access to artists’ work, and innovatively combines the worlds of art and commerce by presenting miniature works of art that are progressive, yet personal and approachable.We are excited to be able to offer an accessible and affordable way for Richmond to collect handmade zines and books.

We are thrilled to be working with Art-o-Mat and its founder, Clark Whittington, on this project. We were inspired by the accessible nature of the Art-o-Mat, the unique buyer and viewer experience and the necessity for artists to innovate their book and zine pieces to fit within the parameters of the Art-o-Mat.