Published on February 4th, 2014 | by The Grid


It’s one thing to set goals. It’s another thing to resolve to carry through on meaningful goals—ones that truly move us forward. Several weeks into 2014, many Richmonders are already breaking or revising the resolutions made for the year ahead. Grid magazine, however, tracked down a handful of Richmonders committed to moving the region forward in their own way. Unwavering in their commitment to RVA, the following contributors shared with us, in their own words, what they will remain focused on throughout 2014. And most importantly, how they plan to help move us forward.


Duron Chavis

CEO of RVAFarms; Coordinator of McDonough Community Garden; Director of Community Engagement with Renew Richmond

When communities come together and share resources, problems get solved. That’s my goal in 2014.

A good example of this kind of collaboration can be found in the George Wythe High School Garden. Last year Capital One sponsored the garden in partnership with Renew Richmond, TEDxRVA, and the Enrichmond Foundation as part of a one week associate volunteer initiative. The goal was to bring together the time and talents of Capitol One associates to help address the community’s needs and make a big impact over seven days.


Many families throughout Richmond have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables because they’re not available in their community grocery stores or markets, making the George Wythe High School Garden important for a variety of reasons. Recent data compiled for George Wythe shows 1,132 enrolled students, 59 percent of which are categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged or receiving free or reduced lunch. Richmond’s poverty level is 25 percent and more than 30,000 citizens currently participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to ensure that their families eat. As a result of poverty, there is inadequate access to healthy foods and limited nutrition education (close to 30 percent of Richmond citizens are considered obese).

To combat these challenges, one hundred and fifty volunteers from Capital One converged on George Wythe High School for an “Ultimate School Garden Makeover,” which included landscaping, creating raised beds, and planting fall crops and flowers —all in the three indoor courtyards in the school. A mini orchard with close to a dozen fruit trees was also planted in the development of the George Wythe High Edible School Garden. The project provided an innovative synergy of volunteerism that addressed the systemic social issue of lack of access to healthy foods in the Southside of Richmond.

“When communities come together and share resources, problems get solved. That’s my goal in 2014.”

The development of George Wythe Edible School Gardens Project is one step in increasing access to healthy foods for this Southside Richmond community. The project will also allow students to expand their mindset when it comes to the environment, learn new skills that can help the community, like urban gardening, and help in their academics. Instead of simply showing students plants in a textbook, allowing them to actually work with the plants helps them grasp the concept better. As an interdisciplinary school environment and community project, the George Wythe Edible School Gardens Project will be a transformational force for George Wythe High School and for the citizens of Richmond. It will serve as an educational tool and provide classroom areas and gathering places for students, teachers, parents, and the community at large.

As a graduate of George Wythe High School, I am honored to participate and look forward to the positive impact students will have on the environment and the community in 2014.

Lisa Freiman

Director at Institute for Contemporary Art

We’ve been very much in startup mode since I joined Virginia Commonwealth University in July as inaugural director of the Institute for Contemporary Art. My goal is to create a vibrant museum that resonates not only with students and the Richmond community, but also with the national and international art world.


So far that’s meant a lot of coffee and conversations with everyone from art students to editor Robin Cembalest from ARTnews. Locally it’s been exciting to sit down with people like Mayor Jones and brainstorm how the ICA can delve into important city issues. The ICA has a unique opportunity to spark interesting conversations among really diverse groups of people within the university and beyond.

We’ve just finished revamping our web site (, which was launched in December with the new ICA logo and identity, created by brilliant VCUarts alumnus John Paolini and his firm Sullivan in New York. In 2014, I’ll be focusing on hiring a chief curator and starting research for the first exhibitions at the ICA. I’ve been working with the architects to finesse the building’s layout for optimal use of space and we should begin construction in the next year. To help with that, I’ll hire a director of development. We want to finish out the capital campaign and make serious headway on the endowment campaign to ensure the ICA is fiscally sound.

“My goal is to create a vibrant museum that resonates not only with students and the Richmond community, but also with the national and international art world.”

We’ll continue to have satellite exhibitions and art and design competitions related to the creation of the ICA. Keep an eye out for an ICA-related exhibition at an exciting new VCUarts gallery space on Broad Street this spring. I will continue to spread the word about the ICA and recruit founders to what will be the most important addition to our cultural landscape in the 21st century.

Dwight C. Jones

Mayor of Richmond

What I know about Richmonders is that we are all interested in moving the city forward. Jobs and economic development are the way to do that in 2014.

In the year ahead I want to underscore the Revitalize RVA plan introduced last year—a plan that is pivotal for the future of the entire city and the people who live, work, and pay taxes here. I’ve been encouraged by the robust conversation taking place about our economic development plan for the City of Richmond, which includes a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom as well as proper commemoration of the rich history of the area.

Mayor vision

Revitalize RVA is a plan based on clear commitments from businesses ready to invest in RVA in 2014 and a plan designed to generate as much new tax revenue as possible. The plan unlocks the development potential for two underdeveloped sites and solves the floodplain issue that has thwarted development in the Bottom for decades. It’s a plan for real growth and an alternative to having to raise real estate taxes to pay for city services in a growing city.

Designed as a transformational step forward, Revitalize RVA is about two important neighborhoods, not just one. It commits resources to commemorating important slave heritage sites and it provides a wonderful new home for the Flying Squirrels. It brings family-friendly activities to Shockoe, while clearing the way for new urban style retail on the Boulevard. It is a plan that moves our city forward and a plan that I’m hoping will succeed in 2014.


Andy Stefanovich

Partner at New Richmond Ventures; Corporate Curator; Author

For those who call themselves Richmonders, the importance of generosity and giving has been ingrained in our culture and ethos for our entire existence. It seems that forward-thinking community support and generosity exists in the DNA of Richmond and has finally passed its traits to the budding world of entrepreneurship and creative energy for which Richmond is becoming known.

It’s my goal in 2014 to continue to drive purposeful change and innovation in RVA and beyond.

Andy Stefanvoich second choice by PaigeStevens_044

People are craving purpose and meaning in their lives. This concept is not new but the extent to which it has become a part of our lives is now more relevant than ever. People want to make a difference and they want their work to make a difference as well. This societal shift is becoming concentrated in places around the world. Certain cities and environments are becoming ecosystems for a new way of work that does not focus on the balance of both “work self” and “meaningful self” but rather an integration of the two worlds. With that in mind, the opportunities in cities such as Richmond to contribute in a meaningful way toward purposeful work is finally becoming available and supported.

In Richmond, there are numerous businesses and organizations that are the epitome of this new way of thinking and living. Richmond is not only the front-runner of this trend but also where best practices and forecasting are occurring. As of recently, the creative atmosphere and need for purpose to be a fundamental aspect of our world is not only finding its way into the lives of existing corporations but also through accelerators like New Richmond Ventures (NRV).

As a part of the screening and pitch process, NRV incorporates social impact as a fundamental aspect of every new venture in which we invest our time and resources. Social impact and world betterment is evaluated as part of our metrics just the same as revenue and cost is considered. There is a direct correlation between the revenue and social benefit and this remains a key differentiator in the companies with which we involve ourselves. A few examples include Knotts Creek, where revenue is directly tied to the gallons of water and chemicals saved in the purification process. Another example is MedCPU, which evaluates the number of errors reduced and lives saved in their medical equipment.

As a community of investors, mentors, and connectors, NRV is part of the tipping point that is occurring in Richmond to develop and produce new ideas that make the world and community a better place. The inherent nature of creating purposeful, driven ventures within the Richmond community is a prerequisite of doing business. A philosophy that the NRV community has adopted as a part of their work is the idea of “Doing well by doing good.” This concept and the investment NRV continues to make in our community into 2014 will bring with it new ideas and opportunities for global impact. While NRV focuses its screening efforts on ventures that want to develop and grow in Richmond, we also foster an environment that encourages global scale growth and impact, not just in terms of revenue but also purposeful change and innovation.

This micro shift that Richmond is embracing is part of the new definition of success that the world is coming to know where meaningful work is as essential as the revenue that must exist for it to sustain life. For a business to survive in Richmond, it must find itself focused on community involvement as much as it focuses on promoting its product or service. This new charge to entrepreneurs is now a loud voice in a continuing conversation that Richmond is embracing as a culture and identity. Businesses are now baking purpose and social impact into their DNA. Instead of it being a peripheral goal, it has become part of their mission statement to do business.

“It’s my goal in 2014 to continue to drive purposeful change and innovation in RVA and beyond.”

Andy Stefanovich says that the micro shift that Richmond is embracing is part of the new definition of success that the world is coming to know where meaningful work is as essential as the revenue that must exist for it to sustain life. His goal in 2014 is to help foster an environment in RVA that encourages global scale growth and impact, not just in terms of revenue but also purposeful change and innovation.

Danna Geisler

President of the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce

2014 will be about blending the traditional with the not so traditional at the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, which represents more than 500 businesses, is home to a variety of businesses ranging from mom-and-pop shops like Pescado’s to DuPont and Amazon.


A membership of vast institutional knowledge, the Chamber is plucking protégés from offices to delve into community initiatives to find out what attracts and retains young professional talent and young families.

Founded just 15 years ago, the Chesterfield Chamber is an entrepreneurial journey in itself, one that will continue to evolve over the next 12 months and beyond.

“2014 will be about blending the traditional with the not so traditional.”

Over the year ahead, a dozen emerging leaders will champion this cause by creating a vision for a different kind of age wave in the county.

In 2014 you will also see the Chesterfield Chamber introduce technologies that will lend a new way for businesses to interact with each other and the public. Meanwhile, a professional development program titled the Smarter Business Series will roll out seminars on lessons in leadership and developing industry practices. And there will be plenty of events, such as the annual wine festival, A Celebration of the Vine in April 

Robby Demeria

Executive Director at RichTech, Richmond Technology Council

At RichTech, we know that stagnant, siloed, and exclusive business associations are a thing of the past. That’s why we’re moving forward and bringing the future to Richmond today by leading Central Virginia’s technology business community.

Robby Demeria2

Recent statistics show that America’s future workforce is not prepared for a global economy driven by science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles. Further, central Virginia’s current STEM workforce makes up nearly 20 percent of all jobs in the region and will grow in the years to come.

We have three major initiatives at RichTech this year. First, we have formed a new foundation for science and technology education, to bring our businesses to the table. We will work with a council of stakeholders to address our current skills gap and ensure our future workforce. We do this knowing that STEM education and workforce development are the crux of a vibrant economy and will pave the way for our economic sustainability.

Second, we are working to unite the General Assembly with our business leaders to support Richmond’s technology entrepreneurs. This is a vibrant and energetic sector, and we know that regional cooperation is paramount. Our initiative will drive these partnerships and our legislative agenda will foster entrepreneurs through high-growth acceleration.

Lastly, and by no means the least important, we hope that our growing Women in Technology forums and conferences will continue to position Richmond as a catalyst for promoting our diverse technical workforce. Women are at the forefront of much of our technology innovation, and women entrepreneurs make up an ever-larger percentage of our smart growth. Our Women in Tech initiative will create a consensus among stakeholders to encourage this sector of our community. The future is today, and RichTech is ready to connect, collaborate, and be a catalyst for tomorrow’s success.


Ilana Burger

Managing Director of Dogwood Dance Project

“My vision for 2014 is to bring dance to as many audiences as possible.”

When I started as the managing director of Dogwood Dance Project in 2010 I had a simple vision: to dance with my James Madison University Dance program alumni friends in the studios and schools where they were working across the state. At its founding, Dogwood was based on a migrant concept of place and audience with rehearsals, performances, and educational master-class offerings.

Ilana Burger

Since that time, the organization has regularly hosted events at nursing homes community centers, dance studios, art galleries, and formal theater spaces in Petersburg, Richmond, Mechanicsville, Charlottesville, Crozet, Harrisonburg, Northern Virginia, and D.C.

A year after the professional company began, we founded the Dogwood Dance Youth Ensemble. Providing pre-professional opportunities for high school dancers from across the state, the Youth Ensemble rehearses and performs statewide, meeting and working with students, teachers, and choreographers from studios, schools, colleges, and universities across the region.

Forming a partnership with the Virginia Center for Latin American Art, Dogwood can now be seen monthly at Richmond’s First Fridays on Broad Street. This partnership—and the prominent venue—promises to take the professional and pre-professional companies to new heights and offer collaborative and creative potential for the company in the year ahead.






Michael “Mikemetic” Williams

Board of Directors at Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts; DJ and Radio Host at WRIR

To many families in RVA, Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts (PHSSA) represents choice. In 2014 my goal is to expand on the concept of choice for my family and others around the Capital City.


It’s no secret that Richmond Public Schools (RPS) face a variety of challenges. Many parents look at the RPS statistics and opt for private schools or move their families to the surrounding counties. There is, however, more than one path to success—and with education, this concept is no different.

Because charter schools are a relatively new concept in Virginia, there are many misconceptions about what a charter school is and is not. In reality, a public charter school is no one thing: It is simply an independently run public school with a high level of autonomy to create the curriculum and culture that best serves its target demographic and mission.

Currently in our fourth year of operation, we take pride in our independent lunch program that supports local vendors, an integrated STEM-based curriculum that utilizes Forest Hill Park as a living classroom, a year-round class schedule, and our belief that science, art, diversity, and community all work hand in hand to make our schools and the neighborhoods around them stronger. Plans for 2014 include innovative after- school enrichment activities, community concerts, and cultural awareness events that will help build bridges between not only our school and the community but between our students and students at other schools as well. With continued growth and many successful years ahead for Patrick Henry, we will continue to expand on the benefits of providing high-quality, alternative public education options that allow our children to both learn and grow outside of the classroom box.


Alex Nyerges

Director of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

While the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is undertaking a number of forward-looking projects in 2014—most notably a comprehensive strategic planning process to develop our next five-year blueprint—what will likely have the greatest impact on the Richmond region will be the opening of Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Beijing. Home to China’s emperors for more than six centuries, the Forbidden City is the largest palace in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. As thrilling as it is to share these exquisite works of art—some of which have never before been seen outside of China—with Virginia, we also want visitors to come as close as possible to seeing them in their original context and to experience some sense of this renowned architectural wonder.

Alex Nyerges_1

From an exhibition-specific app to a panoramic theater that incorporates cutting-edge, immersive films to recreate the Forbidden City at the height of its historic splendor, digital technology will bring to life the hidden world inhabited by the Ming and Qing rulers.

Forbidden City is also exciting because it is the result of an unprecedented, multi-year collaboration between VMFA and the Palace Museum. Cultivating international partnerships like this is essential for a top-tier art museum; both our exhibitions and our museum partners should reflect the global scope of our collection.

Successful exhibitions are certainly good news for the museum, but their impact extends far beyond our campus. VMFA is a driving force for tourism in the region, which directly benefits local businesses and governments. As one of the anchor institutions in a thriving arts community, the Virginia Museum’s vitality also helps attract a young, educated workforce to Richmond and that critical mass of talent and energy fosters entrepreneurship—especially in the creative fields. Encouraging people to engage with the arts and to recognize the arts and culture sector as indispensable to our community is always a positive step forward.

“Encouraging people to engage with the arts and to recognize the arts and culture sector as indispensable to our community is always a positive step forward.”



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