Vaughn Whitney Garland: “Art is the Discovery of Myself in the World.”

Artist name: Dr. Vaughn Whitney Garland

Featured Work: RightHereOnce, Online Sound Walk: sample from Geology of the Fall Zone: North Geo Tour (select the image below to visit a segment of this interactive audio walking tour series)


Dr. Vaughn Whitney Garland is a sound artist and independent curator who is an active participant in Richmond, VA’s vibrant public and community art scene.  He creates sound art that explores and documents sounds from landscapes, local conversations, and numerous community spaces, intersections,  collaborations, and happenings.  The site for the RightHereOnce online sound walk explains that,

“The goal of RightHereOnce is to collect, connect, and present archives, historical documents, images, websites, and articles, as well as audio files developed from close examinations of spaces, community experience and research.”

Garland brings a patient, curious, and expert ear and sensibility to the art of highlighting, witnessing, and celebrating his local environment and community. Please enjoy the field recording below of the Manchester Docs from his Soundcloud page.

Additional Featured WorkMade in Church Hill, A Collaborative Community Documentary and Exhibition–below is a recording of spoken word poems written by Church Hill Activities & Tutoring (CHAT) students

Church Hill is a historic neighborhood growing in popularity “whose ethnic, racial, and economic composition has changed drastically over the last century” (

5 Questions for the Artist:

1. What is art to you?

Art is the discovery of myself in the world.  This means that as the world changes and grows I must also find ways to follow suit.  Change is not easy and is not often wanted but when change happens, when you can say “I have found something in me that I had not known,” that discovery is an art form in itself.  The rest is just finding a way to visualize that discovery.  Having the freedom to evolve is, for me, the display of art as well as the love to keep going.

2. What did you make in the past, and why?

I made very large abstract paintings with many layers of black and white meant to cover up, erase or veil any previous marks.  I was a painter because I had been told that to be an artist one must paint.  I believed in that white-male tradition of work that suggested I shut myself up in the studio and work my conflicts out on a painting, held up in a place where only you and the gods could discern my actions.  I did that for years, locking myself in my studio and trying to shout at the canvas by throwing oil in it.  I stopped painting when I found myself finally stabbing the canvas, physically slitting it through.

3. What are you making now, and why?

I am recording community conversations and landscapes using sound.  One of the first of the Richmond projects was “Driving Richmond” where I asked Michael Lease and Laura Browder to interview bus drivers in Richmond in hopes to “change” the tone of bussing in the city.  I then went out into the fields along Route 5 to document the changing landscape, longing to archive a moment in time that might be gone in the years to come.  Next, I developed a digital mapping system that allows for audio play on mobile devices and depending on one’s GPS position.  This led into several audio tours along the James River Park.  I worked on “Made In Church Hill,” a community conversation about gentrification in Richmond’s Church Hill Neighborhood and will be helping to document the Latino community of Richmond.  Currently, I am working to document the historic narrative around the Richmond Slave Trail to be made into an audio sound walk and exhibition.

4. What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that people can find better ways in which to listen to the “other,” anyone who does not have the same skin color or belief system.  Much of our present problems emerge when we do not stop and listen to the world around us.  Instead, we play offense.  A presence of an all-consuming offense damages our growth as a people for it does not care about the other, nor the collective community.  We see the repercussions of this struggle every evening when news outlets expound about the world tragedies, which could have been avoided if a conversation has simply happened.  We also see the repercussions in the faces of communities neglected by any “outside,” which are many.

5. What else would you like to say?

Thanks for including me.

Artist Supplied Background:

Dr. Vaughn Whitney Garland is a Richmond-based independent curator and sound artist.  He received a Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University’s interdisciplinary Media, Art and Text (MATX) program and an M.F.A from VCU’s Painting and Printmaking program.  He has held positions in many of Richmond non-profit arts and cultural organizations and has curated, co-founded, and co-organized several public art and sculpture exhibitions that include the 2013 and 2015 RVA Street Art Festivals. Garland is currently developing a series of sound installations, web archives and mobile online audio walks in and around Richmond.


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5 Questions for the Artist, © Julia Travers


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