Handicapping the Cultural Purge

Handicapping the Cultural Purge
Handicapping the Cultural Purge
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There’s been a whole lotta founder’s syndrome going on and the list of recent cultural firings is getting longer and weirder: Carol Piersol at Firehouse, Christina Newton at First Fridays, Peter Mark at Virginia Opera, Chris Maxwell at WRIR, Lisa Taranto at Tricycle Gardens, Jay Ipson at the Holocaust Museum…


On this edition of The Sevens, we handicap the odds for those of you playing the city’s newest parlor game: Guessing which Richmond cultural leader will next get the ax. Some prime candidates:


1. Stoner Winslett, Founding Artistic Director, Richmond Ballet

The Times-Dispatch once wrote that Winslett — who started Richmond Ballet more than 30 years ago — was one of the most influential Virginians of the 20th century. She’s toast. 1:1


2. Richard Parison, Executive Director, Centerstage.

CenterStage’s board of directors stole the venue’s logo from the Econo Lodge, its name from Baltimore, its funding from city taxpayers and then assigned its programming to an arena promoter. Strangely, a “world class” arts destination hasn’t happened. Time to pin the blame on this guy. 2:1


3. Alex Nyerges, Director, VMFA

He’s successful and knowledgeable, but Nyerges is an artist himself, a master photographer. That simply won’t do. We can’t have artists running our best arts institutions. 2:1


 4. Paul Levengood, President/ CEO, Virginia Historical Society

The boyish and likeable Levengood would appear to be safe, but five new incoming VHS board members could mean corporate-style grilling on the order of “Why isn’t this acclaimed history museum run more like a Costco, Mr. Levengood?”  3:1.


5. Nutzy, Chief Cheerleader, Richmond Flying Squirrels.

He wiggles his bushy tale violently in board meetings and he’s been snippy with management over nut allotment. But the Squirrels front office knows that firing their popular mascot risks a Firehouse-style PR disaster, this time with added kids and minivan moms. 5:1


6. Ashley Kistler, Director, Anderson Gallery

A seasoned and proven curator and administrator, Kistler is still just one Mapplethorpe-like exhibition – or terse conversation with the wrong bean counter — away from getting the pink slip. That’s just how we roll here. 5:1


7. Bill Martin, Director, Valentine Richmond History Center

Martin has turned the Valentine into something inclusive and expansive…and finding success. That makes him prime firing material in today’s world. Ah, but he’s built in a succession plan in case a future rogue board of directors should want to stage a hostile takeover. His ouster is a long shot. 10:1



  1. Well, I wasn’t fired, but I get the idea. Having your program stolen by another organization with no experience thanks to the backing of the city is more like it.

  2. Excellent observations, which may prove visionary or prophetic (or both). You know the community very well.

  3. With all due respect, Stoner Winslett did not start the Richmond Ballet 30 years ago. Robert Watkins, current Artistic Director of The Concert Ballet of Virginia, was responsible for changing the name of the Ballet Impromptu to The Richmond Ballet over 50 years ago while volunteering as Artistic Director. Ms Winslett took the reins of The Richmond Ballet some time after 1976 when the company split and The Concert Ballet of Virginia was created.

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