Art & Basketball

Before the Final Four, VCU was mostly known in the art, advertising and medical space. Sure, it didn’t make for much of a retort in a gathering of university students (“So what if our football team doesn’t exist?! We create art things!!!”), but it’s what I loved about it.

Group chants and rituals were foreign to me. I never understood the wonders of donning university clothes and, upon stumbling into a fellow Ram in a foreign land, taking part in acknowledgement: You, there, in that shirt that is similar to mine in color and origin that signifies our divergent yet shared experiences – you, my friend, rock.

The few times I got a taste of this elusive school spirit was with Hokie Nation, which I engaged in as a mere observer. I mimicked said chants and rituals, but they came from a detached place. Whenever I raised the ridiculousness of throwing away a perfectly good night after some sort of loss I couldn’t quite grieve, people simply said, “You just don’t understand.”

And I didn’t.

How could I? Blind sports fanaticism went against my very nature. I was always more into independent ventures than following the herds. While I loved certain things and ideas and people, I had no aversion to disagreeing when I felt it was warranted. In fact, I relished it.

Then came the Final Four. “Aren’t you excited?!” people asked. “The Rams made the Sweet 16.”

“What’s that?” I said.

More out of curiosity than school spirit, I tuned into this mysterious, saccharine-themed event. And there he was, this young super coach who oozed charisma. I, of course, was fascinated. I Wikipedia’d. And Googled. And read and read and read. It was a storyteller’s dream – the underdog who rallied a band of underdogs to conquer the mighty ones.

I was reminded of sports’ mystifying ways of bringing out the best and worst in us. And, perhaps more significantly, that nothing else is quite as unifying.

Suddenly, even in corners farther than the corner of my coast, people responded. No longer did I have to say, “Well, it’s in Richmond, which is about two hours from DC…” Instead, it was they who nodded: You there, with your affiliation to the university that spawned that wonderful run – you, my friend, rock.

They understood. And suddenly, so did I.

When I heard VCU was getting a contemporary art institute, I was pretty excited. I was even more excited that the architect was unveiling the design in an exhibit in New York. Last week, my roommate and I headed to the opening reception in Chelsea to check out the models and renderings.

I can’t quite articulate a building’s relationship with its environment like a true architecture nerd can. Nonetheless, I’m an admirer of design, shape and pretty things.

This, to me, says: Look at me, world. I am kind of rad.

It was so neat to have two of my worlds collide. In true creeper form, I eavesdropped on a conversation about Richmond and VCU between (I think) one of the architects and a woman. They talked about the city’s bars and restaurants and southerness.

This is me. Standing awkwardly after about four or five other awkward shots of me not knowing what to do with my hands, feet and, oh I don’t know, face. I am officially terrible at this.

This is Leah, officially not terrible at this. When she asked me to explain this Forking Time thing, I proceeded to read aloud the text on the page. She wasn’t impressed. (Note: This picture was taken at another exhibit.)

This is us, together. Behold our magical feet.

And away we went, gallery hopping into the night.

 Photo credit for watercolor: Steven Holl Architects
More art institute goodness here

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