It finally happened. Seven Richmond galleries and a handful of art experts came together to launch Richmond’s first art fair, Current, in October 2016.
There was a large turnout with a steady stream of people from cross sections of the community, explains Adam Dorland, general manager of Quirk Gallery, a participant in the inaugural fair. “[It] was pretty incredible,” he says. “We got to meet a lot of new people we wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with.”
Now how to keep generating success in year two?
One solution is to bring in the new. This seems an obvious strategy for Current with a namesake that it says on its website is “a nod to the nearby James River, the idea of the new, and the notion of an electric spark.”
For 2017, Current has doubled the galleries, combining the original seven — 1708 Gallery, ADA Gallery, Candela Books and Gallery, Glave Kocen Gallery, Quirk Gallery, Page Bond Gallery, and Reynolds Gallery — with Walton Gallery, Iridian Gallery, Second Street Gallery, Shockoe Artspace, Sediment Arts and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond/Quirk Residency. While last year featured only one nonprofit, this year includes several that will be featured on the exterior booth walls or in project spaces. This is helpful for newly created galleries such as Shockoe Artspace, founded by a Virginia Commonwealth University instructor, Ryan Lauterio.
Leadership for Current has also changed, as self-professed “hybrid artist curator” Sarah Irvin took over in February.
“I moved back to Richmond in 2016 after being away, and I saw this real growth,” she says. “The fair is the next step in bolstering the art scene here. I wanted to be part of this growing scene. There was enthusiasm last year and people are really looking for continued growth. We want to keep doing Current each year but it needs to benefit the artistic community here in Richmond.”
The fair also moved from Scott’s Addition to the Main Street Station and its newly renovated train shed. Gordon Stettinius, director of Candela, says “We’re kind of like a mirage — we’ll go up in the basement of the train station before it’s made into retail spaces.” The art fair will be the second public event held in the space since its reopening.
In terms of art sales, Irvin says the fair doesn’t keep track of those numbers. She did note that last year it had 3,000 visitors over the weekend and an additional 300 to 400 guests at the preview party. Page Bond, owner of Page Bond Gallery, says the first fair was an unexpected success for her gallery. “We had new smart collectors from Richmond and out of town,” she says. “People were happy to take home works right on the spot, and we don’t usually see that sort of spontaneity. Overall, we had terrific sales.”
Caroline Wright, former fair coordinator and gallery liaison, is thrilled to see the new location and continued growth. “[The fair organizers] have been smart about creating a stepping-stone growth. This year brings a more high-profile location and expanded participants with galleries from Charlottesville and Petersburg. I think in the long run, Current is perfectly placed to grow significantly, especially if they can keep bringing in people from out of town.”
Add in programming and food so that people have a reason to stay rather than just a quick perusal. Talks featuring three to four artists will be offered each day at 1 p.m. Panel talks about art writing, curating and collecting contemporary art are scheduled for Friday and Saturday night.
Dorland is excited to see how the second year differs, especially with the new additions. “[Irvin] has worked really hard to create an environment for people to come and hang out,” he says. “There will be a lounge area with exclusive food. Studio Two Three will have their to-go mobile. There will be a lot going on.”
Some things will stay the same, such as no admission charge and a collaborative environment. “We have had collaborative meetings with all the galleries about once a month since the last fair,” Dorland says. “Everyone was quick to figure out how to maintain momentum. It takes year-round planning to do this event.”
Irvin agrees. “It’s great because everybody comes under one roof for the weekend to be neighbors,” she says. “It really forms a more cohesive art scene as people are coming together to create something unique.”
The second annual Current art fair will be held from Sept. 28 through Oct. 1 at Main Street Station. For information visit currentrichmond.com.
Editor's note: this article has been updated to reflect that Irvin moved to Richmond in 2016, not 2009. And there will be no cocktails served on-site at the fair.