Richmond – It’s taken a year, but artwork finally is popping back up on General Assembly walls in fits and spurts. One of the great things about the old General Assembly Building — maybe the only great thing — was the spectacular array of art that graced the nine floors worth of walls spread across east and west wings over several zigzag and looping hallways, and in subcommittee rooms.
It is no exaggeration to say that thousands of pieces — oils, acrylics, watercolors, photography, illustration, mixed media and other mediums — not only showed off the beauty and majesty of country and commonwealth, but the richness of talent in Virginia’s every nook, corner and cranny. The best galleries in the Old Dominion would be hard pressed to top the old GAB.
On especially dizzying days — that is, almost all of them, especially as they piled up — one could find a hall and take some quiet time to absorb the art and let it relax your brain, rejuvenate it, transport you to an idyllic scene and refocus your perspective. As a good part of the legislative process is to hurry up and wait, what better way to wait?
The GAB also had plenty of seating, too, in hallways and in open spaces with tables. The Pocahontas Building has some, but they are in plain view and hearing of any number of people; not ideal to sit take some notes and compose oneself. While the compactness of the Pocahontas Building has its advantages — one can visit more members and staff quicker — it has a generic feel to it. While its maze like hallways provide some quirkiness they aren’t used to full effect.
Now, it’s all business all the time. The personality seems to have lost its place and space.
The blandness engenders all business all the time. The personality of session seems to have lost its place and space. There’s no respite for the brain. There’s no art there.
As it was, artists throughout the state applied to show off their work for the session and beyond. There never seemed to be a problem with filling the GAB, its interior serving much as nearby, resuscitated buildings’ exteriors serve as urban canvasses sporting spectacular murals.
Now it looks like lawmakers and staff have taken matters into their own hands, hanging photography, prints and paintings of their own or from artists from their districts. It’s not nearly what it used to be, and subcommittee rooms are basically bare. The initiative may be a natural outgrowth of their legislative responsibilities, an assertiveness that isn’t always reassuring. In this case, it’s a good start.
Stephen J. (Steve) Rossie is a Richmond-based public and government relations’ consultant. He has been a General Assembly lobbyist since 2006 and has written about Virginia government since 2007.