RVA Street Art Festival brightens The Diamond’s concrete canvas

RICHMOND, Va. – The concrete behemoth that squats on the front edge of a 60-acre tract along the Boulevard now has a colorful crown, just the beginning of a planned makeover as artists prepare for the RVA Street Art Festival at The Diamond.

Earlier this week, local artist Andre, known as “Bomb Proof,” took to the sky in a 100-foot lift with visiting Brazilian artist Zeh Palito. The duo added the first massive swatches of bright color along the top of the baseball stadium.

Palito’s art has been shown across the globe, in Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, United States, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Zambia. He’s traveled the farthest of the over 35 artists — a mix of international, regional and local artists– who will transform the Diamond for the fourth festival.

Zeh Palito and artist “Bomb Proof” begin painting the top of The Diamond.

Since 2009, the Flying Squirrels baseball team has nested at the 32-year-old  stadium, which received national awards in the 80s for its unique cement-style architecture.

“The unique architecture of the Diamond lends itself well to what we want to do here,” said Chuck Domino, Chief Executive of the team, “in a thoughtful and artful way, transform and put a lot of color into the stadium.”

The concrete canvas includes sections on the exterior and interior; columns, steps, and walls of the ashen structure will take on a new vibrancy through mixed-media art.

Throughout the festival there will also be interactive events, projection lighting, landscape art, a market, art for sale in a curated gallery, a concert series, food and beer trucks and creative activities for children and adults in the parking lot around the stadium.

“It’s cool to see sports and art collide,” said board member Katie Benson. “We are really about bringing together people for fun and we think they [Flying Squirrels] are great partners for that.”

Benson chatted during a drive back from business with her main job, in the hematology and oncology profession. She joined the seven-member board after the first RVA Street Art Festival in 2012 at the Canal Walk,  launched by politician Jon Baliles and Ed Trask, an artist considered the wall blazer of local murals.

The group’s threefold mission is to find new artists, raise money for children’s art programs in the city, and to highlight different areas in the city that need a conversation.

“The bus depot created a conversation,” Benson said. “That was a cool experiment.”

In 2013, artists helped rejuvenate the industrial, time-worn acres of walls and buildings on the 113-year-old property. The festival had many working parts; there was public art, mural sessions, sculpture, and mixed-media exhibits, in addition to stories and ideas about the history and future of transportation in Richmond.

And while many lamented that developers purchased the art-saturated five acres  two years later, Benson called it a “street art mandala.”

“That’s the beauty of it, you seize the moment to come and be a part of it and enjoy it with other people,” she said. “That collective energy is really a positive in the current climate.”

The gray, hulking stadium seats 9,560 fans, and for years debate has swirled around whether the stadium should be renovated or rebuilt.

As development booms along the Boulevard and Scott’s Addition, Benson understands that one day this art installation may also disappear.

“We are quite sure what will happen, but that’s the beauty of street art,” she said. “It brings people together for that one moment in time to talk about it. “

Benson said this year’s festival is going to be the biggest.

“I think Richmond can be really proud of it,” Benson added. “It’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and on a shoestring budget.”

The three-day festival begins Friday, Sept. 22 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 24.

There will be bands and DJs over the weekend; including but not limited to Feral Conservatives, Kenneka Cook, Chance Fischer/Michael Millions, 59H20, Mckinley Dixon, Dead Letter Officers, Manatree, Saw Black, DJ MikeKemetic, and Mekong Xpress & The Get Fresh Horns.

The craft beer will flow fervently, and food trucks like Mean Bird, Go Go Vegan Go! and Gaucho will dish divine delights. The craft beer list will include options like Shocktop, Center of the Universe Chin Music, Ardent IPA, Bold Rock Blood Orange cider, Strangeways Albino Monkey, Legend Brown Ale, and Hardywood Pilsner.

See website for more details.

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Hours: Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Event is at 3011 N. Boulevard. Free to enter, parking available in lot.