Gallery event shines light on sustainability, food justice

Sustainable Richmond 2 on Marshall Street. Photo by Olivia Jazwick

Olivia Jazwick, Contributing Writer

Marshall Street was buzzing with activity this past First Friday when Gallery5 opened its doors on Sept. 1 to present Sustainable Richmond 2 for the first time in 13 years. 

The event is a collaboration with markets and merchants that specialize in sustainable living to support local, mutual aid food justice initiatives and promote climate awareness. 

Gallery5 owner Amanda Robinson is working with some of Richmond’s most beloved mutual aid organizations like Seasonal Roots, RVA Community Fridges, Richmond Food not Bombs, Shalom Farms and Richmond Moon Market to “rebuild on the collaborations and relationships” with local nonprofits, she said. 

Instead of these organizations sitting behind tables and handing out pamphlets, Robinson wanted it to be an immersive experience for attendees, she said. 

“I wanted to display them alongside visual artists, so you’re actually looking at their organization almost as though it is displayed like a piece of artwork,” Robinson said. 

Inside the gallery were exhibitions for some of the local food resource organizations and a large venue area where musicians played to a crowd of onlookers. Outdoors, the streets were sectioned off and filled with various sustainable and local vendors selling products from clothes, tarot readings and food. 

Sustainable Richmond 2 exhibition inside Gallery5. Photo by Olivia Jazwick

“It’s to show what we’re here for,” Robinson said. “We’re a visual arts center, but it’s all about building relationships and giving a space and voice to local artists and non-profits that need better representation.” 

Taylor Scott, the founder of RVA Community Fridges, stood in front of an art exhibit displaying the 13 decorated and fully functional fridges that are spread throughout Richmond to provide food to those in need. 

Scott said their organization’s mission was making sure that they could provide free and accessible food fridges, so that people could have access to fresh, local produce because food is a right and not a privilege. 

RVA Community Fridges has been active in the Richmond area since 2020 and has firsthand experience with the way that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the community’s access to consumable and affordable food, Scott said. 

Scott said she didn’t know what was happening in the mutual aid field or the food scene before starting the fridges and COVID-19. 

“It wasn’t until she put that first fridge out and COVID was in full swing that people were spreading the word and asking for more,” Scott said. “You can really see the heightening difference and lasting effects.”

Seasonal Roots, a local food organization, was another group featured at the event. Isabella Clouse, their social media strategist, explained that over the course of the year, Seasonal Roots works with around 70 to 100 different farms to harvest produce for the community. 

People can sign up to be Seasonal Roots members and get fresh produce delivered right to their house, Amanda Robinson said. The annual membership fee is typically $50, but for the event, the organization reduced the price to $25 and donated $20 to Gallery5.

Seasonal Roots donates produce that isn’t suitable for their members to communities like RVA Community Fridge, Clouse said. 

Everyone at Sustainable Richmond 2 had a “powerful” mission to help the city and shed a light on what these organizations do, Clouse said. 

“These events are really great because it brings all of the Richmond people together and it helps all of these smaller organizations make a name,” Clouse said.

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