Art Happens Here

Change is constant at 2016 Staples Mill Road. It was once Colonial Grocery. Then it was a beauty school.  And from there, a mixed-use building that peddled everything from mattresses to flooring. For the past 13 years, the property, however, has served one purpose: the home base for Crossroads Art Center, a growing clearinghouse for local arts where change is to be expected.

“We started out with Building One, which is a little over 10,000 square feet, added Building Two: over 9,000 square feet, and then Building Three: over 5,000 square feet,” says Jennifer Kirby, co-founder of the expanding gallery.

Over that time Kirby has seen her customers’ tastes change as well — from watercolors to oils and acrylics. And from traditional to contemporary. Meanwhile, wallets are also loosening. On average, the average cost of paintings at Crossroads have gone from $150 to a range of $350 to $500 in recent years.

“Clients are willing to spend more on a quality piece,” Kirby says.

While navigating an industry in motion, Kirby has gained a reputation for creating a nurturing place for artists of all ability levels to showcase and sell their work. As a result, Crossroads Art Center now exhibits the work of more than 225 emerging and established mid-Atlantic artists.

Along the way, the expanding gallery has become a resource for the arts community at large, with an active schedule of classes, workshops, and events that promote awareness of all forms of art — paintings (oil, acrylic, watercolor), collage, photography, pottery, sculpture, glass, satin glass, jewelry, and mosaics.

“We serve the normal, middle-class person looking for a piece of artwork for their house, a gift for a wedding or birthday, a handmade card to go with a special gift, or a going- away gift for a friend,” Kirby says.

Crossroads Art Center, which has a staff of nine employees, offers new exhibitions every month, along with a juried all-media show and a members’ show. Kirby often encourages artists still in school or just getting out of school to enter the all-media shows.

“This allows them to experience the real world,” she says but is quick to point out that “emerging artist” does not always mean young. “It can be older folks just retiring and coming back to their love of art.”

Kirby says that Crossroads Art Center also serves as a resource for a strong network of established artists, such as Chuck Larivey who uses Crossroads as a “test gallery” for his pieces: “This allows Chuck to see if he needs to make changes to the piece and which gallery he should send the pieces to.”

Kirby, who is constantly looking for new ways to push the art community forward, recently enlisted the help of Cathy Fallin, the former president and owner of Commonwealth Kinko’s. Together the longtime friends launched BuyRVAart.com this spring as an online collection of the area’s top visual and performing arts. Highly curated, the new platform has allowed Kirby and Fallin to grow beyond the walls of Crossroads Art Center and to provide artists with a portal to sell their work and promote their products.

“Since Crossroads is a destination place to buy local artists’ works in RVA, why not have a destination place on the web to buy local art? So BuyRVAart.com was conceived,” Kirby explains. “The more we thought about it, the more we were inclined to expand the concept to include both visual and performing arts in RVA … one-stop shopping for all the arts in Richmond. This is why I started Crossroads in the first place. It’s the next step in exposing local artists.”

Fallin points out that there’s a strong convenience factor at play as well: “There are now so many places you can try to find art, but there’s no source to find everything in one spot. A lot of people are turning to the Internet but it takes a long time. This is especially true for interior decorators looking for something very specific for clients. They’ve been asking for this.”

With the site successfully launched, Kirby and Fallin are now adding to their online collection featuring the best visual and performing arts. Their ultimate goal is to attract the world’s attention in hopes that those far beyond the River City will want to purchase a slice of RVA.

“From a global standpoint, it brings new money into the community opposed to just circulating the pile of money that we have here. It will be nice to have an influx of new money coming into Richmond and the added exposure,” Kirby says. “We want to make this a boom for Richmond.”

CategoriesArtists, Collaborators, General, Live
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Passionate about the RVA community, Stuart brings extensive knowledge of Richmond and a deep appreciation for its neighborhoods and people. When she’s not helping her clients buy or sell their home at One South Realty, Stuart co-publishes Richmond Grid magazine.