The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship Program is a vital source of funding for the visual arts and art history in Virginia. VMFA is committed to supporting professional artists as well as art students who demonstrate exceptional creative ability in their chosen discipline. Since its establishment in 1940 by the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg, the Fellowship Program has awarded nearly $5.5 million in fellowships to Virginians. 2015 marked the 75th anniversary of VMFA’s Fellowship Program.

As part of our commitment to Virginians, the Pauley Center Galleries, Amuse Restaurant, the Claiborne Robertson Room, and select spaces at the Richmond International Airport are dedicated to showcasing the work of VMFA Visual Arts Fellowship recipients.

Red with Oval, 2017, Julia Pfaff (Canadian/American, born 1957) ,Digital dye print-whole cloth quilt
Three Bars with Kantha, 2019, Julia Pfaff (Canadian/American, born 1957) ,Digital dye print-whole cloth quilt
Three Large Posies, 2017, Julia Pfaff (Canadian/American, born 1957) ,Digital dye print-whole cloth quilt

Stitches: Whole-Cloth Quilts

by Julia E. Pfaff
Jul 29, 2019–Feb 2, 2020 | Richmond International Airport

Julia Pfaff makes art employing a medium more closely associated with domesticity than fine art—stitched fabric. She was originally inspired by the work of conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth to present quilts as art within a gallery context. Moving beyond the conceptualists’ appropriation of found domestic objects, Pfaff has chosen to maintain the integrity of my object—a quilt—starting with white fabric and lavishing upon it layers of process. Her goal is the creation of a contemplative object, both beautiful and evocative, both well-crafted and spontaneous in design.
The work in Stitches: Whole-Cloth Quilts explores the textures and forms of woven fabric combined with the stitched line. Pfaff begins with white fabric, which she dyes, prints, and stitches. Next, she scans this fabric and digitally manipulates, enlarges, and layers the scans. Finally, she employs a large-scale inkjet printer that uses fabric dye to print the digital images onto specially prepared fabric. The composition of the resulting textile is enhanced and completed with machine quilting, as the artist uses the machine’s needle like a drawing tool. Pfaff’s finished whole-cloth quilts are a 21st century blend of low- and high-tech processes.

Julia E. Pfaff is the recipient of a VMFA 2019–20 Professional Fellowship.

Eons, 2018, Russell Richards (American, born 1970), Concrete, steel, copper, and leaded glass
Old School, 2017, Russell Richards (American, born 1970), Concrete, wire mesh, and paint


by Russell U. Richards
Aug 16, 2019–Feb 17, 2020 | Pauley Center Galleries

Working in the construction field taught me how to “read” an old building. Where it’s been built upon or modified, how it’s weathered, and all the marks people have made on it, tell the history of a place. It’s like archaeological evidence.

I like to imply that sense of the past, and to use the materials of architecture in my little buildings: concrete, steel, copper, wood, glass, tar and paint. Their surfaces are layered, peeling, grimy and covered in graffiti. But they’re not miniatures. I’m not trying to create the illusion of real buildings, or conceal their true nature as sculptures. Nor are they intended to be apocalyptic, or slums. I hope they come across as less literal than that.

As this idea develops, the interior spaces are beginning to take on a life, too. I like the idea of sculptures that are compelling on the outside but reveal another whole dimension if you come closer and peer in through the windows and crumbling façades.

Russell U. Richards is the recipient of a 2019-20 professional visual arts fellowship.

Red Jubilee, 2015, Mahari Chabwera (American, born 1995), Beads, fabric, charcoal, oil, and acrylic on canvas
I'd Be Starved If I Ate All The Lies They Told Me, 2015, Mahari Chabwera (American, born 1995), Oil on canvas

Mahari Chabwera
Aug 9, 2019–Feb 9, 2020 | VMFA Amuse Restaurant & Claiborne Robertson Room

Mahari Chabwera is a 2019-2020 professional recipient of the VMFA Visual Arts Fellowship. She received her BFA from VCU in 2017 and recently completed a residency with Vermont Studio Center. Born in D.C. in 1995, Mahari currently lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. She makes work to replace and revisualize embedded traumas in black women’s psyches, expanding our notions of what’s possible inside our bodies. As the renowned author Toni Morrison explains in The Source of Self-Regard, “I am suggesting that we pay as much attention to our nurturing sensibilities as to our ambition. You are moving in the direction of freedom, and the function of freedom is to free somebody else.” Mahari’s most recent liberatory project takes the form of a group show entitled “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, We Made Armor,” opening at SEDIMENT on November 1, 2019. She will use a portion of her VMFA fellowship award to facilitate this group exhibition and provide stipends to the six black women artists involved in the show.