I believe that Richmond equals and surpasses New York in many regards. I get tired of people in Richmond, especially artists, feeling like they have to go to New York to "make it." Because of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VCU, the Richmond Ballet and the Library of Virginia (just to name a few), Richmonders have easy access to the greatest of the greats in the arts.
My main concern about Richmond is that the general public in New York City seems more engaged in its local arts culture. I believe that concern should be a main objective for local arts organizations to seriously address by asking themselves, "How can we attract everyone, not just those already involved in the arts?"
I think a lot of Richmonders feel as if they have to whisper when they are in a museum. New Yorkers certainly don't. It could be that by living in such close physical proximity to their arts organizations and venues, New Yorkers naturally feel at home with the arts. Richmond arts culture needs to somehow bridge the physical gap we have between the suburbs and the city proper. I'd love to see someone build a Richard Meier-designed Modern Art Museum near Short Pump Town Center! This would be a great gift for a patron such as the Ukrop family to give the area. They would become our Richmond Medici family if they did something like that!
I've concluded that it makes much more sense to live in a beautiful, highly cultured, less polluted, reasonably priced city like Richmond and make frequent visits to New York. In Richmond, it is easy for artists to have large studio space; just try to find that in New York. Also, if a Richmond artist wants, he or she can easily be New York-based while living in Richmond. All he has to do is get a Manhattan post office box with forwarding to Richmond and a Manhattan-based cell phone.
Kudos to Governor Warner for bringing New York's attention to Richmond. When I lived there and told people I was from Richmond, many times they would ask, "Did you grow up on a farm?"
I would always shout, "No! It's a city, and a marvelous one at that!"
Elizabeth W. Meggs
Chesterfield Working Vigorously With Others
I read with considerable interest "Chambers Clash Over Chesterfield" (Street Talk, April 20). I spoke with Scott Bass on several occasions while he was working on this story, and I wish he had been able to include a bit more information. I understand the problems of space limitations and hope this letter will enable us to clarify a few matters.
Chesterfield County is blessed to have a very involved citizenry. Nearly every community and citizen interest is represented by informed, committed and active citizens and citizen groups. Unfortunately, prior to the existence of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce, there was no group representing the interests of the business community. I think that both the Chesterfield elected officials and the county staff did the best they could to be sensitive to business issues. However, if a group doesn't represent itself, you really can't expect others to assume the burden of doing so.
After the chamber was organized, we had to take an aggressive stance just to be heard. And as Mr. Schrum stated, the early days were somewhat contentious. It is essential to note, though, that when we were able to make our case and the issue was clearly understood by all, it was the proactive response by the elected officials and county staff that made the improvements we were seeking possible. Today we enjoy a vigorous two-way flow of information and assistance.
We also have a considerable difference from the Richmond Chamber with regard as to how we address issues. We draw a hard line between citizen and business issues. We do not presume to try and tell our citizens what is good for them. In the matter of the LINK bus service, it is clear that this project failed due to outrageous costs and little demand. The chamber considered this to be primarily a citizen issue and never adopted a position for or against the LINK. Mr. Bass noted in his story that our objection to the Performing Arts Center had nothing to do with the merits of the project and everything to do with the fiscal abuse of a small component of our business community.
On the accusation that Chesterfield is "isolationist," perhaps a few facts might put things in perspective. The great majority of "cooperation issues" are in reality bilateral agreements or initiatives between adjacent governments. Relatively few involve multiple governments except in the abstract. Chesterfield has nine governments as neighbors, four cities and five counties. Chesterfield also has many cooperation agreements with each of them, both formal and informal. Chesterfield is, in fact, one of the most cooperative and outreaching governments in Virginia. It's also one of the most fiscally responsible.
I am amused that all the rhetoric for "give us the money," aka "Regional Cooperation," comes from special interests with jobs to protect or financial benefit to gain. No mention at all is made of the 85 (by my count) instances of ongoing cooperation between Richmond and Chesterfield, to the great benefit of both.
Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce
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