G40 Summit brings artists, murals, and “lowbrow” art to Richmond

You might have noticed several really big murals going up on the sides of buildings around town. They are the beginning components of this year’s G40 Summit. Artists, workshops, and music will be in town to celebrate the “Art of the Mural.”

A few lions, an assortment of fruits and vegetables, and a menacing bird. These are among several new murals found painted on the side of buildings around Richmond, with several more on the way. Thirteen muralists from around the world were invited to paint original designs on the sides of Richmond buildings. Not only are these globally-renowned muralists in town, but they will be joined by many other artists and musicians as the city will soon host the month-long G40 Art Summit.

The event was founded by Art Whino, a DC-based art gallery that strives to bring artists from around the world into collaboration using modern art forms such as stencils and lowbrow art. The annual G40 Art Summit brings together artists and musicians in a specific area to explore the various components of the lowbrow movement.

“I always loved that art,” said, Shane Pomajambo, Art Whino founder and executive director. Pomajambo grew up in New York City and after earning a degree in architecture moved to Virginia. He started buying pieces and, as a result, was automatically signed-up to gallery invitations. However, none of these gallery invitations were in the D.C. metropolitan region. To remedy this, Pomajambo created Art Whino “to bring this [art] into the D.C. area.”

To take lowbrow art beyond the walls of their full-time gallery, Art Whino created the G40 Summit in 2010 to expose people to the art first hand. A tongue-in-cheek play on the G-20 Summit, the first G40 event was held within five stories of a rented building in Crystal City, Virginia. Each floor represented a different U.S. and global region, showcasing artists from each region. For the second G40 event, Pomajambo rented the entirety of an abandoned Transportation Department building in DC, using its over 40,000-square-feet to showcase artwork.

In late 2011, Pomajambo spoke with famed Italian muralist, Pixel Pancho, about the emerging mural art taking place across the world. The discussion between the two inspired Pomajambo to make “Art of the Mural” this year’s theme. “Muralists are in the forefront of the art movement,” said Pomajambo. “They’re changing the fabric” of neighborhoods across the world. Pomajambo initially wanted this year’s summit to support an Arts District in DC. However, no such district exists in the Nation’s Capital. That’s when RVAMag stepped in.

Staff at RVAMag, who were already in collaboration with Art Whino to start a quarterly publication titled Whino, told Pomajambo about the proposed city-sanctioned Arts District in Richmond. When Pomajambo visited Richmond with Pixel Pancho, the two walked a mere four blocks before they realized the G40 Summit should be in Richmond.

Invited artists will paint over 20 murals in a ten-block radius (a full list of murals and locations can be found here, and a convenient map of the murals here.). This year’s event will also showcase an exhibit featuring over 500 artists using the various sub-genres within low brow art at over eight different locations and totaling over 50,000-square-feet. Gallery5 will also host a traveling group that will “re-skin” weapons into artistic works in a show titled “Weapons of Mass Change” that will take place on April 6th. Several workshops, along with music performances, will also be held during the month-long event.

Pomajambo said the goal of the G40 is to “do things big” to draw attention to the event and to Richmond’s Arts District. “You need patrons walking the Arts District,” said Pomajambo. If people specifically come to areas in and around the district then “that Arts District will grow.” Pomajambo said that having an established district devoted to the arts will “just put Richmond on the map even more.”

The Art Whino founder said that G40 lacks large backers and, as a result, is primarily “self-funded.” He credits artists and musicians who devote their time to the cause of art and communal art appreciation as helping to make the G40 happen. For example, he said that well-known Belgian muralist Roa, who recently completed a large bird on the side of Bellytimber Tavern (1501 W. Main Street), can charge upwards of $60,000 to create a large mural. Instead, Roa has voluntarily forfeited payment to participate in the event (G40 pays for the airfare, hotel, and meals for visiting artists). Pomajambo said that this sort of generosity and commitment to art helps make the G40 Summit possible.

Not only will Richmonders have a front-row seat to the art, workshops, and other events that will take place throughout the month-long summit, but Pomajambo anticipates many outside of the city will visit too.

The Art Whino founder expressed an admiration for Richmond, describing it as “bohemian.” He complimented the overall character of the city, saying that “you’re attitude is different.” He also expressed big hopes for Richmond’s future, saying that the city’s Arts District has the potential to be one of the nation’s best. The G40 Summit will do its part to help.

The G40 Summit will run from April 6th – May 4th, and is unaffiliated with The RVA Street Art Festival taking place later this month. Stay tuned for more on that!

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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