DPI Alum Shannon Castleman founds art space in Richmond, VA

Friday, Jun 9, 2017

Shannon Castleman, executive director of Oakwood Arts + P35 Gallery. (Photo by Jay Paul)

Oakwood Arts + P35 Gallery is a new arts education center and gallery founded by DPI alum Shannon Cattleman in Richmond, Virginia. Scheduled to begin programming this summer, Oakwood Arts will fuel a diverse community’s creative expression and prepare Richmond’s next generation of visual artists. 

Richmond Magazine reported on the new center last month:

In mid-March, Oakwood Arts + P35 Gallery was founded, with Castleman at the helm as executive director. An artist, photographer and adjunct professor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Photography & Film, Castleman returned to the U.S. in 2013 after living 10 years abroad. Her first job out of college was teaching photography at Dar Al Hekma College, a women’s university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The experience helped shape her artistic philosophy and worldview.

...As part of Castleman’s vision, the church will be transformed into an exhibition space — where a group of emerging local artists will choose what to show, on a rotating basis. The building, dubbed P35 Gallery, will host art-related events — film screenings, theater productions, lectures, spoken-word performances.

Her students in the Middle East, and her experiences teaching and building community-driven art programs in places like Singapore, Vietnam and Cuba taught Castleman the importance of inclusion in artistic spaces, and making those spaces accessible to all. “In some ways, it made me more sensitive to being the ‘outsider,’ to knowing what it feels like to be the ‘other.’ Inclusion is crucial.”

Artists need to leave to see, she says plainly. “When you’re taken out of your own culture, and then you reenter it, you see it with new eyes and it energizes your work.” In Richmond’s art community, “we’re getting there, but we’re not there yet,” she says, noting that our creative spaces don’t always reflect the diversity of the city. “The goal for Oakwood Arts is to introduce people in this neighborhood to local creative pockets, include them in the overall narrative of our art culture, and prepare them for creative industries with practical applications, like filmmaking and photography.”