Monthlong Event Celebrates City's Arts and Culture

By Lisa Schaffner | October 7th, 2016

Typically each month here on the pages of BOOMER, we focus on nonprofits that need your volunteer help and how you are Giving Back to those organizations. This month, we are changing it up a bit. Our focus is on one all-encompassing RVA event that organizers hope will spark your creativity and open your eyes to new ways of Giving Back.

ArtoberVA is a monthlong celebration of arts and culture in Richmond. It involves 300 arts and culture nonprofits, local businesses and volunteers working together and collaborating during the month of October.

“It’s creating an opportunity for artists and culture groups to focus on one month and create a community-wide buzz about arts and culture in a concentrated amount of time,” explains Scott Garka, president of CultureWorks. “ArtoberVA is about showing how big a part of our community the arts are and encouraging people to try new things.”

CultureWorks, which helps the arts to flourish in the metro area by providing support and leadership to arts and culture organizations, is the force behind ArtoberVA. The arts-centered celebration is patterned after a similar annual event that Garka visited in Nashville last year. “When I was talking with residents there, one person in particular summed it up. He said Artober Nashville creates an element of, ‘I just cannot miss it.’ When you have the opportunity to attend something all year long, you tend to put it off. But when you feel that it only exists during that one month, you make time for it,” says Garka. He hopes that feeling of urgency rubs off on Richmonders, who will not only attend ArtoberVA events but volunteer with participating arts and cultural organizations in the months after October.


The Edgar Allan Poe Museum is one such organization. “We rely heavily on our community to be successful,” explains Jaime Fawcett, the museum’s executive director. “My two favorite words are volunteers and collaboration.” That’s why the Poe Museum is taking advantage of ArtoberVA and partnering with several culture organizations, including St. John’s Church, in hopes of reaching new supporters and new volunteers. “The event I’m really excited about,” exclaims Fawcett, “is Fancy Me Mad. It’s a family-friendly graveyard tour where you’ll meet Poe and his mother and have an opportunity to stand in a coffin.” Just for the record, Poe and his mother will be played by actors, and the coffin, well, it’s real! (The event takes place Oct. 22 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at St. John’s Church in Church Hill. Tickets are available at St. John’s Church or the Poe Museum.)

The Poe Museum, located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom on East Main Street, boasts 30,000 visitors a year and 1.6 million website hits. “We couldn’t do the events and programming we do without the volunteers,” says Fawcett, who has headed up the museum for the past two years. “We want to know what you’re interested in doing here at the museum. If you don’t know what you want to do, that’s OK,” encourages Fawcett. “We really value having a conversation with you and cultivating a relationship with you.”

Volunteer opportunities at the Poe Museum include working in the retail shop, helping with exhibits and giving tours.

You can check out the Poe Museum – and many other organizations along with their volunteer opportunities – during ArtoberVA. A full calendar of events is available at the event’s website, where you can also sign up to be an ArtoberVA volunteer in October.

If I am any indication of ArtoberVA’s first-year achievement, it’s going to be wildly successful! You see, I visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in 1986 when I first arrived in Richmond. My fascination with “The Raven” prompted my inaugural visit, but I’ve not returned since. Shame on me! It’s taken 30 years and ArtoberVA to reignite my passion for Poe. Don’t let it take that long to ignite your passion for Giving Back!


These worthy organizations need your help.


HOW IT HELPS: Drives a vibrant arts and culture community by providing support and leadership to arts and cultural organizations in the metro region.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Subscribe to the CultureWorks newsletter, attend an event supported by CultureWorks or make a financial contribution.


CONTACT: Visit the website or contact Scott Garka, president, at or 804-340-5280



HOW IT HELPS: The monthlong celebration of arts and culture, held in conjunction with National Arts and Humanities month, aims to increase awareness of and participation in arts and culture offerings across the region.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Volunteer to help at one of the many events scheduled during the month of October.


CONTACT: Visit the website or contact Terry Menefee Gau at or 804-340-5280


The Edgar Allan Poe Museum

HOW IT HELPS: Educates and inspires visitors on the story of “America’s Shakespeare” and houses the world’s finest collect of Poe’s manuscripts, letters and personal items.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Visit the museum or volunteer. Volunteer opportunities include working in the retail shop, giving tours, helping with exhibits or at events.


CONTACT: Debbie Phillips, volunteer coordinator, at 804-648-5523


St. John’s Church Foundation

HOW IT HELPS: Ensures the historic preservation of St. John’s Church, a National Historic Landmark, as the location of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, and provides educational programs, tours and re-enactments.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Visit the historic church in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood or register as a volunteer. Volunteer opportunities include special events, educational programs, visitor center, summer re-enactments, marketing.


CONTACT: Visit the website under “donate” to fill out a volunteer application or call 804-649-0263


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