Community Build Exhibition Opening at VisArts on Friday Sept. 9, Explores Transformation of the Collective through Craft

August 31, 2022 News

The Visual Arts Center of Richmond presents, Community Build, an exhibition of work by and with Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Lil Lamberta, Valeska Populoh and members of their respective communities. The exhibit will open at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 9 and a performance by Open Space Education students, in collaboration with Lil Lamberta & All the Saints Theater will begin at 6:30 p.m. Community Build will be on view in the True F. Luck Gallery at VisArts until October 31, 2022.   

 “How do we participate and support the collective transformation that we need for our survival? One way is to craft compelling objects, stories and experiences for and with others”

–Valeska Populoh 

Community Build creates space for dialogue, conversation, dance, and echoes between three multidisciplinary artists whose practices include and call in many. For this exhibition, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Lil Lamberta and Valeska Populoh serve as stewards and facilitators of a much bigger art and social justice ecosystem. Community Build is rooted in storytelling and collaborative work. Through this, it explores the interdependence of how the artists make work in relation to each other, the implications of this environment and the future that we all as a community are building every day.   

Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo (they/them) is an artist, activist, educator, storyteller & curator who lives/works between Ohlone Land [Oakland, CA] and Powhatan Land [Richmond, VA]. Their work centers B.I.Q.T.P.O.C. stories by re-creating and re-telling personal tales and those of the people that surround them through process-based mediums that reflect the multi-layered complexities of the voices echoed in the work.  

Community Build is an invitation into a long legacy of work that depends and becomes of itself because of others, Community Build is an evolving space, a show, a workshop, a performance, a studio, a manifesto, a community, a chosen family, Community Build is stewarded by three artists with much-chosen history and shared underground root structure. Through this month together, we will become a new version of what a collective becoming can look like,” says Lukaza, “I hope that folks are able to both see an entry point into this network/community/demands and also question how to be a part of creating, shaping and making this ongoing work.” 

Lil Lamberta (they/them) is a Powhatan and Pamunkey Land [Richmond]-born and based sculptor, performer, dancer, and puppeteer who marries their classical training as a performer with radical formats of Street theater and ancient forms of storytelling such as puppetry. Lil uses papier-mache and other affordable materials to denounce war, inequality, and the capitalist exploitation of workers, migrants, and the environment. in 2006, Lil founded the All the Saints Theater Company which produces Richmond Annual Halloween Parade. The parade features papier-mache masks and larger-than-life puppets as a form of activism and community building. Under Lil’s direction, a team of artists, activists, and community volunteers, build the puppets, organize the volunteers and execute Richmond’s favorite permit free street tradition for 12 consecutive years.   

We’re trying to tell a specific story through our art, but I can say that we are part of a contemporary web that has ancient origins in storytelling. What threads us to the future from our ancestors is this moment in time, staying true to these ancient forms of theater which are ritual and ceremony,” says Lamberta when asked about their contribution to the community-centered collaborative exhibition at VisArts.  “We are preserving something – and for me, the magic is that I will always be able to do this work, because I choose trash, I choose streets, I choose friends. I can’t move puppets without comradery. I can’t have a parade without strangers. collaborative art and theater live beyond the artist and are part of a larger human experience.  The puppets in relationship to the scale of landscape or urban story and how those things advocate for life beyond capitalism, eco-terrorism, and racism, that’s what interests me.”  

Valeska Populoh works as an artist, educator and cultural organizer and joins the trio from her adopted hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, unceded territory of the Piscataway Conoy and other Chesapeake First Families.  Embracing a wide array of tactics, from puppetry to participatory performance, Valeska’s work is motivated by an interest in healing and repair, in our relationships to each other and to the natural world. “Relationships with other artists and community partners greatly inform my work. Our dominant culture has brought us to a precipice. We can hear the voices of the Earth and of communities who have been historically marginalized calling loudly for us to right our relationships – to the sacred web of life and to each other. How do we participate and support the collective transformation that we need for our survival? One way is to craft compelling objects, stories and experiences for and with others – to enchant and educate each other, to help us better heed urgent calls for change, to amplify and honor the voices of those most impacted by climate chaos and inequality, and to strengthen us in undertaking the challenging work of collective transformation.”  

“The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with this group of artists and their networks of collaborators,” says VisArts’ Executive Director, Stefanie Fedor. “Part of what makes VisArts so special is that our work relies on collaboration amongst a large community of artists, students, and arts appreciators. This exhibition highlights the way three artists deeply committed to social justice are working in communities to document and tell collective stories, create moments of reflection and celebration, and calling out the ways we are all connected.”