Renew Richmond

Sometimes starting a movement is easier than you think. Maybe it doesn’t take shape in a brilliant bathtub “eureka” moment, nor hit you suddenly on your morning commute. Sometimes it grows more organically. Such was the case for the RENEW Richmond initiative. The venue for inspiration: the patio of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market. The topic of conversation: beautifying the River City.

Sometimes starting a movement is easier than you think. Maybe it doesn't take shape in a brilliant bathtub
[top]: An organically grown idea, the RENEW Richmond initiative started on the patio of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market and led to an ongoing clean-up initiative, a pop-up art gallery, and community collaboration. Here, Blue Crump does his part to renew RVA.
[bottom]: Richmonders of all ages planted gardens, cleaned sidewalks, and picked up trash. The rules of the clean-up were few: be safe, have fun, and stay off private property.
“I don’t know if it’s the green, or the Fan, or the foliage, or the people, but a lot of inspiration happens on that patio,” says Becky Lakin, marketing director of Ellwood Thompson’s and co-founding member of sustainRVA’s RENEW Richmond project.

Lakin and Jeff Anderson of BioRide met to discuss doing a basic clean-up initiative in town. Before long, a bigger idea started to take shape. “We were talking about this clean-up, and then we started thinking, ‘Sure, a clean-up is great, but how do we make this even cooler?'” says Lakin. With that, RENEW Richmond was born.

The project took place this fall. Across 11 districts, teams were composed of businesses, local charities, families, and friends. In groups from one to 15 people, the teams set out to spruce up the city. The rules were few: be safe, have fun, and stay off private property. Projects included planting gardens, clearing sidewalks, and picking up trash. For those teams interested in taking beautification to the next level, RENEW Richmond offered a final step.

Throughout the clean-up process, those teams comprised of green-minded art enthusiasts held onto bits of trash and recycled objects to turn into eco-friendly art. Once the pieces were created, they were displayed in RENEW RVA’s pop-up gallery located at 3007 West Cary Street. The makeshift gallery was then filled with art composed entirely of “found” materials that were re-imagined and re-purposed by RENEW Richmond teams.

“The eco-art piece was a great addition to the clean-up because I think people deserve to be recognized for their hard work. The pop-up gallery displays teams’ artwork for all to see, so it definitely enabled us to do that,” says Lakin. A gallery opening took place to celebrate RENEW Richmond’s success and to provide the community an opportunity to view the recycled art created by their neighbors and friends.

A project of Ellwood Thompson, BioRide, and UrbanGrid, RENEW Richmond turned a simple clean-up project into a way to re-imagine beautification. Much like other projects that have recently come to bear in Richmond, RENEW Richmond wouldn’t have happened without the unique collaboration between local businesses and organizations. Other sponsors included Allegra Network, Greater Richmond Grid, RVA Magazine, Ace Recycling, Richmond Magazine, The Hatchery, Studio Center, RichmondOutside, and Ashby Consignment.

The shared effort of the event was yet another indication that the success of any one positive initiative is the shared success of all. It’s something pretty remarkable, and something that surprised Lakin: “When I asked people for help, they’d say ‘yes’ and it was so eye-opening. One after the other, people kept jumping on board.” While this was only the first experiment with the RENEW Richmond project, Lakin hopes it will become a regular initiative. “I definitely hope to make this into something that happens annually. Now that we’ve seen how it’s gone, we can really see what it could be. I really want it to gain steam.”


CategoriesCollaborators, Community Builders, General, Live, NewsTagged

Grid is a solutions-oriented news platform that celebrates makers, storytellers, and community builders. Our goal is to share stories about people inspired by a purpose beyond themselves. We are interested in hard work, humility, authenticity, and stewardship. And most of all, people who roll up their sleeves and push Richmond forward.