Familiar faces, different places.
To start, it was like a mini-artwalk, with Candela Gallery having an opening and artist's talk on this damp Friday evening.
The show, "Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane" featured work by photographer Susan Worsham, a name I didn't recognize, but a face I did.
I'd met her years ago at Zeus Gallery Cafe and we'd talked about photography; later, I'd seen her at photography shows and always enjoyed her positivity.
But until I saw her smiling face tonight, I hadn't made the connection.
The show comes from Susan's life experiences which include the deaths of her parents and her brother's suicide.
Interestingly enough, the works highlight beauty as much as decay and death.
And not all are photographs.
One called "Watercolor" is a collection of antique veterinary slides, with samples of things like rabbit tongue, eye of pig and human testicle included.
Others relate to her family's former neighbor Margaret, a former biology teacher, who was an integral part of her childhood.
Margaret's presence is felt throughout the exhibition, in her microscope and handmade bread doily, in a large-scale photograph of her under Susan's mother's favorite camellia tree and in a piece of bread she baked which Susan let go moldy before photographing.
Even better, Susan recorded Margaret reminiscing and an hour-long recording of her memories and stories plays in Candela as you look at the photographs.
It's tempting to just sit down and listen to the wisdom of this wizened woman.
My vote for most disturbing photograph goes to "Snakes on My Childhood Bed," where a snake lounges next to a picture of Susan's mother on her wedding day.
It became even more meaningful when, during Susan's talk, she said that as a child, her mother had always assured her, "There's never going to be any snakes in your room."
Her mother couldn't have foreseen that a multiple-snake owner would eventually own the house or that Susan and her boyfriend would one day knock on that door and ask to see her childhood home.
On the other hand, clearly it provided inspiration for the artist.
Susan was an engaging speaker, sharing all kinds of stories about the idyllic beauty of her childhood on the UR campus and the sadness that came out of that lovely start in life.
Bittersweet it was.
Music followed with the RVA Solo show at For Instance Gallery, a place I'd never been.
But the faces I knew well.
A winding stair took me to the cozy gallery with art hung everywhere on the walls and three long windows fronting Cary Street downtown.
As things got set up, one of the musicians turned off the lights, leaving only a few colored bulbs from a lamp on and asked of the crowd which they preferred, dark or light.
I was the first to vote for dim, justifying the red, blue and yellow lamp lights as "groovy" and so the show went on sans overhead lighting.
It pays to be a big mouth sometimes.
Organizer Scott Clark soon stood up, announcing, "We're dedicated to starting shows on times and seven minutes late isn't too bad."
What followed was a succession of some of Richmond's best and brightest jazz musicians.
First trombonist Bryan Hooten played and since I'd never heard solo trombone, I was surprised to hear his sharp intakes of breath between blows.
He played an untitled piece, said, "Solo trombone is hard work,"took a big gulp of water and did an improvised number.
He then proceeded to empty his instrument.
"It's just condensed water," he grinned. "Contrary to popular belief, it's not spit, it's really just condensed water."
I believe him because I want to.
As he was playing a cello sonata he'd transcribed by his favorite composer, Gyorgy Ligeti, I couldn't help but admire the night view from the windows.
In each, a tree was foreground to a building across the street, all silhouetted against the misty gray sky as Bryan's trombone made beautiful noise.
Cameron Ralston and his bass were up second and he began with what is usually an exercise to warm up, but what he referred to as "D Plus."
His bow arced and jumped around creating noises I couldn't begin to see him make, but then I'm a musical idiot.
Finishing, he admitted, "That opens up all kinds of creative doors."
How could it not?
Next he did an original piece he'd written while on tour (with our own Matthew White) when he'd heard about the Connecticut shootings.
"I imagined it for piano and bass originally, but seeing as how I'm the only one up here, I'll do it myself."
It was an achingly beautiful piece and after finishing, he changed gears, saying, "Let's do something fun. This is an Ornette Coleman tune called "The Sphinx."
And it was fun, as evidenced by his twitching leg and even his right hand, which became a blur as he tore through the piece.
Drummer Scott Clark took center stage next, saying that he and Cameron had been talking for years about doing a solo show and it had taken this long to make it happen.
That it was finally happening was a fact for which every music-lover in the room was eternally grateful, I'm sure.
Scott mentioned that he'd been reading "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" and writing off of the book and that it had become more meaningful as he'd toured parts of the country recently that the book had touched on.
"Seeing those places was profound. I don't know whether that will come through in my playing the drums, but just enjoy."
It did come through and I can't say how except that the improvised piece had a rhythmic urgency that played out in his handling of the brushes, mallets and bells.
Toward the end, he began reading a poem he had written about the Native American experience and it was truly a magical moment to hear him drumming and sharing his words simultaneously.
"And the drums relive what once was," he intoned beautifully.
At that moment, I felt privileged to be hearing his heartfelt playing and reading with the night sky behind him in this little second-floor gallery with only a handful of people.
Guitarist Scott Burton replaced the first Scott doing new solo material he was debuting.
As many times as I've seen Scott play in various incarnations, it may have also been the first time I'd ever heard him play an acoustic guitar.
We heard "Staircase" and "Interiors" before he said,"I'm going to play "I Believe" by a band called Tears for Fears."
His cover was exquisite and you could almost hear the people in the room holding their breath for every note.
Afterwards, he grinned and said, "Tears for Fears, yea!"
Things got heavier for "Underwater," followed by "Scaffolding" and "The Lizard" and every time he locked into a groove, I noticed both Scott Clark and Cameron bobbing their heads in the front row.
And why not? I believe, right along with Tears for Fears.
I believe that Richmond is a place where talented musicians share their music in intimate galleries on misty winter nights.
Sculptors come. Music teachers come. Frenchmen come. And of course other musicians come.
But so should everyone who needs proof that this town has got it going on.
It may even make you believe.