VA Flaggers to protest InLight exhibit at Confederate chapel outside VMFA

Confederate Memorial Chapel

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Flaggers plan to protest at the upcoming InLight Richmond art exhibit that will be held on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and will include the Confederate Memorial Chapel. The annual event, which uses sound and light to engage spectators, is held in a new spot each year.

This year the free event, curated by the1708 Gallery, has caught the ire of the Virginia Flaggers, who are not happy that the installations will include turning the memorial chapel into a so-called “FUNHOUSE.” The group took offense to a recent article which referred to the chapel’s transformation as a “trippy funhouse” and are now calling for the “Trippy Dippy Light Show” to be cancelled.

Pryor Green, Interim Chief Communications Officer at the VMFA, said the “article was misleading, making the assumption that all installations at InLight are whimsical in nature, and that the Chapel piece would be as well.”

“In fact, it is just the opposite,” Green said. “This is a serious work done by two independent artists, originally from Virginia, who hope to draw attention to the historical significance of the chapel and to offer a contemplative experience for all those who enter that space.”

In a press release, the Flaggers equated the exhibit as “…no different than if VMFA officials or the Governor of Virginia walked out to Hollywood Cemetery and urinated on the graves of our Confederate dead.”

The Flaggers feel slighted that VMFA officials not only “forced removal of Confederate Battle Flags from the Confederate Memorial Chapel” in 2011 (read that history here), but will now allow artists to “probe the “socio-political significance” of said chapel.

“This installation offers an opportunity for many to be introduced to the Confederate Memorial Chapel and to learn about its place in Richmond’s history,” said 1708 Gallery’s Executive Director Emily Smith. “In this case, the artists’ interpretation holds a mirror up to the history of this 127-year-old Virginia landmark.”

The show will go on as planned, Smith confirmed, and will serve as a platform for conversation and dialogue.

“The artists will amplify the details of the physical structure and cast light through its stained glass windows,” Smith said. “They will record and represent visitors’ physical interactions with the space. They will create an environment that inspires InLight visitors to pay attention to the building and to consider the site and its significance.”

The Flaggers promised to add a light of their own with a candlelight vigil and “flagging” at 7 p.m. They also promised folks “from as far away as South Carolina” will join them “to take a stand against what they feel is a direct and intentional slap in the face of the thousands of us whose ancestors bravely defended the Commonwealth.”

Inlight Cuppetelli and Mendoza 2012

The flaggers call the land “stolen,” and said the Sons of Confederates donated the land for an art museum in exchange for a promised memorial park. The VMFA corrected that statement and said the land was purchased by the state, in exchange for care of the veterans and the property in 1894 (the VMFA opened in 1936). Earlier this year the VMFA declined to renew the chapel’s lease, to the Sons of Confederate Veteran, which is permitted under a law adopted in 1993.

Inlight Richmond, since 2008, has featured 190 local, national, and international artists and artist collectives across Richmond’s neighborhoods, from Broad Street to historic Tredegar, to the Riverfront Canal Walk and over to Monroe Park.

InLight organizers said they have engaged more than 30,000 visitors over the past seven years, and that 9,000 showed up last year. This will be the first event held over two nights. InLight takes place Nov. 13 and 14. The museum will remain open late for the exhibition, which runs from 7 p.m. until midnight.