Olivia: My mother has always said that I’m an old soul trapped in the wrong time. I have had a passion for everything vintage my entire life. While most little girls were playing with dolls, I was listening to my parents’ old ’45s and learning how to jitterbug and go-go dance in the living room. When I’m not working my day job at VCU, I am working my second job as a hair and make-up artist specializing in vintage looks. In my spare time I enjoy scouring thrift stores for hidden gems, sewing vintage-inspired dresses and swinging on my porch swing with my dog, Lola.
Olivia: I first began dreaming about and laying the foundation for the Art Deco Society of Virginia about a year ago. Unfortunately at the time, my life was incredibly busy and I quickly realized that creating a society such as this was too much for one person, so I placed it on the back burner.
Last May, I was invited to attend a 1930s gala in Norfolk with my friend Bill Speidel. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I ended up riding with Bill’s friends Andy Nishida and Rita Shiang. During our trip, the three of us lamented about the lack of vintage-themed events in the area. We discussed how wonderful it would be to meet other people with a passion and appreciation for the vintage lifestyle and to have opportunities to wear some of our fabulous vintage clothes that have long been relegated to the back of the closet. That night, I brought Bill into the conversation and he too shared our woes.
That was all it took to reignite the Art Deco Society of Virginia flame. Less than a week later, I posed the idea of the society to Bill, Andy and Rita and asked them to serve on the Board of Directors to help make this dream a reality. They said yes. I brought in my vintage savvy friend Catie Ehrler and the wonderfully artistic Erica Vess to round out the board and thus ADSVA was born.
We just had our very first event, a Gatsby Afternoon Picnic in Forest Hill Park, and it was a rousing success. We have a private tour of the Art Deco collection at the VMFA set up for next month and the board is meeting next week to start working on events for the remainder of the year. The support we have received from the community and from local businesses has been heartwarming and tells me that this is something Virginia has needed for a while.
Q: What is the best way that someone can get involved with the ADSVA?
Olivia: The best way to get involved and meet people is to attend some of our events. All of our upcoming events are listed on our Web site (www.artdecova.org) and in our facebook group. They are open to members and nonmembers alike. If you like what we do and you catch the deco bug, we encourage everyone to become a full-fledged member. You can do so by filling out the membership form on our Web site and selecting your membership tier. Becoming a member not only gets you invitations and discounts to ADSVA events, but your membership fee helps us continue to increase Art Deco awareness in the Commonwealth, address preservation issues, as well as host events, such as our Gatsby Afternoon Picnic and our Jazz Age Preservation Ball.
Olivia: For most people, I think it’s the music that initially opens the door to this wonderful time period. The red hot jazz, the big band swing, 80 years later and it’s still wildly popular. Once you get your foot in the door, it doesn’t take long to realize that the 1920s and 1930s were a very exciting time in our history. We have flappers and frivolity, glamor and elegance, wild high-society parties and the rise of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was also a simpler time, when families drove to the countryside on the weekend for a picnic and friends actually socialized without the disruption of television or cell phones. I think all of those things together, make this time period still alluring almost a century later.
Q: What are some of your favorite art deco influenced architectural structures in Virginia (or Richmond)? Is there one that the ADSVA is currently working on preserving?
Olivia: The Model Tobacco Building in Richmond on Route 1 is one of my favorite deco structures in Virginia. It has wonderful lines and an exemplary sign in quintessential deco typography. I also love the Henrico Theater on East 9 Mile Road. It’s a beautiful example of Streamline Moderne. Once the sun goes down and the red neon flashes to life, the Henrico Theater truly is a marvel. And of course the Allied Arts Building in Lynchburg, which looks like it was plucked from the streets of 1930s Manhattan with its ziggurat shapes, decorative metal grill and carved greenstone eagles. There are so many amazing deco structures, it’s hard to pick just one!
What most people don’t realize is that Virginia has a number of art deco architectural gems hidden throughout the Commonwealth — from the Coca Cola Building in Charlottesville to the Norfolk Federal Courthouse. While some have made their way onto the National Register of Historical Places, many have not. The Ashland Theater in the Town of Ashland is one of those places. The theater recently made Preservation Virginia’s 2012 list of most endangered historic sites in Virginia. ADSVA is currently laying the groundwork to make the theater the beneficiary of our first Jazz Age Preservation Ball in January. Our goal is to raise enough money to jump start the preservation process of this historic deco theater.
Olivia: I do! Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find nice pieces around here. The majority of my furnishings are mid-century modern, but I am slowly transitioning and replacing things with deco pieces when I find them. My favorite deco piece is my 1930s club chair I happened upon at a thrift store. Although someone had it reupholstered in a 1950s brocade, it still has great lines and cascading detailing. Some day I hope to refurbish it and bring it back to life. I know there’s amazing wood paneling hiding underneath that drab fabric.
Q: When is the next Art Deco Society of Virginia event?
Olivia: Our next event is on Sept. 16. We are taking a tour of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s Art Deco collection. The tour will be led by Deco expert Rosaleen Cosby. The tour starts at 2 p.m. and it’s open to everyone. It’s $5 for members and $7 for nonmembers. We are asking people to register in advance so we can give the museum an accurate head count. You can register through our Web site at http://artdecova.org/events/
For more information about the Art Deco Society of Virginia, visit their website at http://artdecova.org
Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.