Oregon Hill Times (Spring 2004)
by gayla mills
Daffodils aren't the only things in bloom in our neighborhood these days. In the last few months, some of our neighbors have achieved major milestones after years of work, with releases of new albums, new movies, and new radio stations.
The Oregon Hill Funk Allstars, whose roots began at 112 Laurel, released their first CD in February: "Backbeat Sacrifice." With its mix of funk, soul, and hip hop flavored jazz, it's a cutting edge CD from a band that's making quite a name for itself. The CD was produced on the Hill at the so-called "Minimum Wage Recording" studio on Laurel, thought the studio is now located on Albemarle St.
"We love the vibe of the area,"said Dusty Simmons, drummer. "Oregon Hill is kind of a laid back atmosphere and I guess it rubs off on you." To see interior shots of the band and the studio or to order the CD, you can visit the band's website at www.ohfas.com.
Printmaker David Freed, an artist with a studio on Pine, is one of three artists featured in the recently released documentary "Long Art." The movie is directed by David Williams, a Richmond filmmaker who first made a name with his documentary film "Lillian" shot in Richmond in 1993. "Long Art" focuses on three local artists including David Freed. It premiered in Charlottesville last fall and was just shown in Richmond in April at the James River Film Festival. The camera follows the three artists as they work and reveals how they make artistic decisions and think about their work.
Based on the images in his prints and drawings, Freed seems to take inspiration from his frequent walks through the neighborhood and from his Oregon Hill studio garden. In addition to showing Freed making prints and discussing his art, the film captures him in a memorably comic moment pursuing a fly with a dustbuster.
When he spoke of the film following its debut, he seemed relieved for the filming to be over. Having the camera was more distracting for him than it appeared for the other artists in the film. But for those in the audience able to get an unusual glimpse of him at work, being able to see him create his art was worth it.
On a different media front, Christopher Maxwell has reached another milestone in his decade long effort to get an independent radio station established in Richmond. He is a leading force behind WRIR, which is a non-profit, low-power FM radio station that will be air on the dial at 97.3.
A China Street resident and one of the staunchest bike riders in the neighborhood, Maxwell (or Max) is well known for his strong political activism and outspoken defense of personal freedoms. Now working with the Virginia Center for the Public Press, Max has helped lead the way in founding the station WRIR, or Richmond Indie Radio. The station can currently be heard over the web at www.wrir.org until it becomes available next year over the airwaves. When it launches, the signal will extend from Willow Lawn to Fulton Hill. Its mission is to "air unrepresented music, news, and views to provide a platform for cultural diversity in Richmond."
There's a lot more happening behind those quiet facades down each block. Stay tuned for more about your neighbors in the news.