Henrietta Near – A Lifetime of Artistic Generosity
|Henrietta Near with Faberge flower collection at VMFA.|
Richmond was a very different world in 1955. And, Henrietta Near played a pivotal role in forever changing that landscape.
Henrietta Near has that artist’s combination of a curious mind and an adventurous spirit. Exploring and creating are her life. And create she has. Her artwork is whimsical, colorful and pushes the boundaries of media – she has created oil pastels, silk screen prints, photographs, collages, assemblages . . . and art galleries. Yes. Art galleries. Art galleries that have become Richmond icons.
By the 1980s Richmond still offered little opportunity for young artists to exhibit their work, yet it was home to an ever-growing community of artists, some home-grown, some from other states and countries. Feeling a shared sense of frustration Henrietta gathered a small group of artists to her home to talk about taking a new direction. From that meeting, Artspace gallery was formed. Shockoe Bottom was its original home until it outgrew its space and moved to East Broad Street, where it remained until 2003 when several members moved to Plant Zero in the Manchester District. Henrietta with five other members remained on Broad Street until 2013 and the gallery became art6, another highly-respected institution in Richmond’s art history.
|Henrietta Near's work arrives at Reynolds.|
Today, when asked about the benefits of
exhibiting art for the community, true to her spirit, Henrietta gets animated. “There is nothing like seeing art first-hand, up close,” she says. “It opens new worlds. It opens the mind.” When asked about the Reynolds Art Collection, she says, “Reynolds is a perfect place to exhibit artwork. It’s great for the students.”
To young artists, Henrietta says, “do what you love to do. Find what makes you happy. Take classes (Henrietta still does!), keep an open mind and never stop learning. Everyone has a different approach. You have to find yours, and trust yourself.”
|Paintings and photographs.|
Almost 65 years after Henrietta came to Richmond, Reynolds Community College is playing its role in her story. Reynolds is preserving her valuable and irreplaceable contribution to Richmond’s art history through its Art Collection. Henrietta Near, along with fellow artists Janet Gilmore-Bryan and Chuck Scalin have made generous donations of their work to the college’s collection. These works will be permanently exhibited throughout the halls of all three campuses for students, faculty, staff and visitors to enjoy for years to come . . . a fitting and perfect way for Henrietta’s legacy to live on.