Right Around the River Blog

Rocketts Landing Q&A: Tom Yeaman, Owner Rocketts Art Studios

Post Date: 07-17-2014
Rocketts Art Studios (RAS) is Rocketts Landing’s only working art studio — and with resident Tom Yeaman as its owner, RAS has an even closer tie to our community. The studio is where abstract artist Diane Clement creates her masterpieces, and RAS also features rotating exhibits of guest artists. We've enjoyed experiencing all the art they're sharing and decided to dig deeper into the studio and chat with Tom about opening shop here at Rocketts Landing, as well as his deep ties to RVA. Below is our edited Q&A. Enjoy!

Rocketts Art Studios owner Tom Yeaman (right), studio artist Diane Clement (middle) and textile artist/jeweler Robin Grabinska (left).

Rocketts Landing: Are you an RVA native?

Tom Yeaman: Yes, I was born on St. Christopher's Road and grew up in Glenburnie. Here, I carried the Richmond Times Dispatch to 125 homes at 5:00 a.m. every morning before heading off to Thomas Jefferson High School, where I was head of the Cadet Corps.

RL: What do you hope Rocketts Art Studios does for Rocketts Landing? And Richmond?

TY: With RAS, I want to offer a convenient location for showcasing abstract art and other local artist crafts, such as pottery, jewelry, etc. I also have an eclectic collection of art that I've acquired over the years, and the studio gives me the opportunity to display and sell a portion of my collection.

You can explore a variety of art in rotating exhibits at Rocketts Art Studios, such as this previously displayed handcrafted jewelry by Robin Grabinska.

RL: The RAS building has been the home of various businesses over the decades. How did it fit your vision for the studio?

TY: The 1800-square-foot metal building (on 15 white "stilts" or columns) had many different uses over the past couple of decades, such as serving as the headquarters for Crown Petroleum for many years. The building later deteriorated with various small tenants. When looking for a place for the studio, the space fit our needs. But artist Bill Parrish, Diane Clement and I had to do a top-to-bottom renovation to truly create it into an artists’ studio/gallery. After pulling up the old, green and glued-down commercial carpet, we found a beautiful floor pattern formed from years of dye and glue. So, we added splatter paint to resemble some of Diane's abstract art and then covered everything with a poly coat to resist scratches. From there, the floor became the perfect "canvas" to showcase abstract art and paintings. 

RL: With many different artists in RVA, how did you and specifically Diane Clement collaborate to create RAS?

TY: I first started acquiring Diane's art about 10 years ago. One of my favorites of The Jefferson Hotel and neighboring skyline with its earth tones, beige and gray shadings has become my "palette" for all of my places. Since then, I vowed to find a way to showcase her work so that others might also be attracted to her wonderful art in the ways I have. Two years ago, I hosted a party for her here at Rocketts Landing to display more than 100 of her paintings. I decided then to find a suitable, larger place for her to show and sell her art.

Abstract artist Diane Clement creates her unique art at Rocketts Art Studios.

RL: What do you enjoy about RVA's art scene?

TY: I appreciate that we have so many talented artists working in so many mediums here in Richmond. I started attending art openings and shows over 20 years ago and continue to visit most of the galleries on First Fridays on Broad Street and West Main. On other days I visit gallery openings on Libbie and Grove, at Crossroads in the Near West End, and along Hull Street, Manchester and now in Ashland. I probably visit about 15 – 20 gallery openings each month. I'm grateful to publications (such as Style and the Richmond Times Dispatch) for showcasing local artists and listing so many wonderful opportunities each week so that I can plan out the best route to visit them all.

RL: Obviously, you're not just the RAS owner — you're also a resident of our community. Why did you choose Rocketts Landing for your home?

TY: I have always been attracted to water and thoroughly enjoy living in such a beautiful, new growing area with expansive views along the James River — and all of the many activities and restaurants where I can always meet so many fun and outgoing residents and guests of all ages. Not everyone [in Richmond] can watch boat races and events from their balcony. There are always so many fun activities both here just a few blocks from downtown — and it only takes about 10 minutes to get to almost all of the nearby museums and historical organizations for their events.  

Plus, we (residents) have wine tastings, oyster roasts and fish fries, Halloween and holiday parties, dinners and, of course, my infamous martini parties here. And, I appreciate that details matter here: the little things, such as carts to use for groceries from the garage, flowers, art and historical photographs in all of the halls, exquisite lobbies and decor. I also enjoy the lush gardens with water features on each terrace coupled with comfortable lounge seating — which I use for watching sunsets with a glass of wine.

Rocketts Art Studios current exhibit also features the work of local abstract artist William Parrish.

RL: What's your connection to the James River

TY: In all of my travels, I have always been attracted to the water. I have owned boats in Deltaville and have sought out the solitude, serenity and beauty of the James since I was a teenager. I used to boat out to the islands near the Huguenot Bridge with a date for an afternoon of guitar music and swimming fun. Later, I used to take float trips downriver and paddle my own raft through the rapids.  

Since living at Rocketts Landing, I have enjoyed being a Carefree Boat Club member and taking a pontoon or ski boat downriver past Jimmy Dean's old home to some of the secluded beaches and coves just minutes from Rocketts for swimming and a picnic lunch. Now, I have other friends who invite me to join them for a leisurely afternoon boat ride and dinner while watching for shore birds and eagles. We are so fortunate to have the James River in our back yard. All of the folks in our Richmond Metro area should take time out just to enjoy and be involved in the conservation of our beautiful rivers.

RL: What do you most enjoy about owning RAS — and how does this fit with your long-term vision?

TY: As everyone here knows, I love to entertain and spend time meeting new friends in fun surroundings. RAS has provided me with such a great opportunity to host gatherings and special events for friends and some of my most favorite local charities — while introducing new art to beginning– and established collectors. For the long term, I see RAS serving as a special event space, featuring art openings and shows for local artists. I also envision art classes out of RAS, as well as creating a community destination for folks to enjoy my taste in art and other hobbies. This could mean hosting a "Girls' Night Out" or private martini and wine tastings. Also, RAS could possibly serve as a location for information about tour and travel opportunities to my favorite Central American location, Nicaragua, and much more.

Artwork lines the walls in every room at Rocketts Art Studios. Even the floor is a work of art!

Clearly, RAS is more than just an art studio to Tom Yeaman — it connects him to RVA's rich cultural community and enables him to give back and create the similar experiences he loves to enjoy.

A great way to check out Rocketts Art Studios is at their upcoming "Christmas in July" art opening and reception on Thursday, July 24. We'll be sharing details as we get closer to the date, so be sure to check back soon for all that Tom and RAS are up to right around the river! You can also visit them online at the Rocketts Art Studios Facebook page.