Keep Calm and Keep Changing

A break in the renovation reports for a little self-reflection.

Grey Day
J. Haden Hankins, Photographer
c. 1933
Richmond, Virginia

I hope you don’t mind a little break in the renovation reports while I indulge in a little maudlin self-reflection. 2014 is a landmark year in my life. It is a year that marks my 20th year at the Valentine, the 10th anniversary of my successful cancer treatment, my 60th birthday this week, and (hopefully) the completion of this endless renovation. I cannot imagine a more privileged life.

Every day over the last 20 years as I have learned more about our City’s history and the traditions of the Valentine, I have been reminded of the essential connections that we must make to our past and its link to a better future. What a remarkable place the Valentine is! Its historic commitment to inclusion and educational opportunity sets it apart from others. From early engagement with all children in Richmond Public Schools (1902) to exhibitions and programs (RVA50 and Tattoos) that challenge us to look atourselves and our community differently, this special place on Clay Street has made the quality of life better for all of us. There have certainly been a few bumps along the way (Riverside), but at the core has always been a group of faithful supporters, diligent trustees and creative staff working to guarantee our future. Through building our endowment and our commitment to downtown and the rejuvenation of our remarkable historic properties on Clay Street, we are guaranteeing that the Valentine will be able to remain relevant and engaging to future generations of Richmonders.

Since my cancer diagnosis and treatment 10 years ago, I now know that every day is a gift and that I must use each day to challenge myself to find ways to contribute to positive change in our community. Those closest to me know that this has resulted in a growing lack of patience and the need to get the things done that we know will make life better. (Those around me know too much about this impatience.) The cancer experience also gave me a clearer understanding of the values that would inform the rest of my life. We know that broader access to the cultural, natural, and historic assets of the region can change lives. We also know that there is much about Richmond’s past that we do not know and that we cannot advance as a region until we uncover and acknowledge those untold stories. It is in the discomfort of these stories that feel I my own growth. Nothing like chemo to clear your perspective.

And then there is this 60 thing. Whoever thinks that they are going to be 60? I am not sure how this happened, but I do know that it would not have happened without my great parents (mom is almost 90), remarkable friends, forgiving staff and supportive trustees. (No…I really mean it.) I could never have imagined this introverted poor kid from Culpeper County sitting in my seat. I could never have imagined the remarkable people that are part of my life. I could have never imagined all of the ridiculous changes that happen to us as we grow older.

So I am now officially old and there is work to do. We need to finish our efforts to create a Valentine that continues to challenge us. We need to work to assure the stories we tell provide a full story of our region. We need to bring new leaders to the table. And I need to be more patient and acknowledge the people that support and surround me.

Keep Calm and Keep Changing
…will you pass me that glass of red wine?

– Bill Martin, Director