VisArts Mourns the Loss of Longtime Ceramics Teacher Jim Valentine

October 05, 2017 Features

On September 29, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond lost a longtime friend and teacher, Jim Valentine.

Valentine was a former public school teacher who taught art for both Richmond Public Schools and Hanover County Public Schools. When he retired, he found he missed teaching, so he began to teach ceramics classes at VisArts.

Nancy Kantos, who has been a classmate, a student and a friend of Valentine’s for more than 15 years, remembers the first day she met him. “We were taking a class of David Camden’s, and I knew he was someone special because David shouted ‘Jim Valentine’ when he walked into the room.”

Valentine has taught figurative and sculptural ceramics classes at VisArts for the last decade. Most recently, he taught a popular class called “Clay is Your Medium.” Students in the class created bas-relief collages, animals and human forms using sculpting techniques. As they worked, they learned about functional ware, raku techniques, cold process bronzing and how to add non-clay material to their work.

Valentine won the Visual Arts Center’s Shelly Shepherd Master Teacher Award in 2010. The award goes to a teacher who exemplifies the organization’s mission through his or her excellence, creativity and dedication to students.

“He was as amazing a teacher as he was an artist,” said Joan Lewis, a ceramicist who served as Valentine’s course assistant over the last several years. “As an artist, he was constantly expanding his body of knowledge, and then he’d turn right around and teach us.”

Karen Quigley has taken ceramics classes at VisArts for years. In 2006, when her son Eric was applying to art school, she brought him by the studio to interview some of her classmates and teachers for an application video he was making. The topic of the video was passion—a subject Valentine knew something about. He stopped what he was doing and sat for an interview, and what he said into the video camera always stayed with Quigley and her son. He said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

Valentine always pushed his students to try new things. When a piece didn’t turn out, he liked to remind them, “It’s just dirt.” He never let a ruined piece of clay ruin his mood. He’d just ask, “What’s next?”

Students praise Valentine for his modesty, his preparation and his fun-loving attitude. He was known for his jokes and his studio attire—a pair of overalls and a baseball cap.

“He lived for Wednesdays,” said Lewis, because that meant he was in the studio, teaching. “On Wednesdays, he liked to say, ‘Hot damn, it’s Wednesday.’” He called his students, many of whom had become his close friends, his mud buddies.

“He gave you such confidence,” said Lewis. “He loved your work and inspired you to be better.”

In addition to his work at VisArts, Valentine enjoyed spending time at Shrine Mont, an Episcopal conference and retreat center located in Orkney Springs, Virginia. He taught at two of Shrine Mont’s camps—St. George’s Camp and Art Camp.

A memorial service will be held at St. James’ Episcopal Church at 1205 W. Franklin Street on Saturday, October 7 at 11 a.m. VisArts plans to pay special tribute to Valentine at a future date. Please share your contact information with Jeff Vick at if you would like to receive more information about the tribute as it becomes available.