About this collection

The Bang Art Festival, also known as the Spring Arts Festival, occurred four times at the Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) between 1964 and 1967. The festival was created by RPI faculty in the Communication Arts & Design department. James Bumgardner and Jonathan Bowie were co-directors, along with Richard Carlyon, Jewett Campbell, and Willard Pilchard. Fine Arts department faculty member Bernard Martin, and students William Livingston and Carol Sutton also participated. The goals of the festival were to bring contemporary art, music, theater, dance, and more to Richmond, as well as showcase artists from around the country.

The festival brought significant artists and art professionals to Richmond, including: musicians Jesse Fuller, John Cage, David Tudor, Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, Bill Dixon, and Alan Silva; visual artists Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Allan Kaprow, Barnett Newman, Ernest Trova, Larry Rivers, Roy Lichtenstein, Thomas B. Hess, and Larry Rivers; dancers Judith Dunn, Twyla Tharp, Yvonne Rainer, Theresa Dickinson, and Lucinda Childs; and curator Alan R. Solomon.

Events at the festival included dance pieces, panels featuring artists and critics, film festivals, theater performances, and more. RPI students participated in events throughout, and also attended events alongside RPI faculty, staff, and Richmond community members.

The festival took place in the spring. The first Bang festival was held April 6-12, 1964. Bang 2 followed April 19-16, 1965; Bang 3 March 21-25, 1966; and finally Bang 4 took place April 25-29, 1967. Funding for the festival was not renewed in the 1967-1968 fiscal year, and a student-led festival replaced Bang in May 1968.

This collection includes materials related to all four years of the Bang Arts Festival. There are photographs of performances, posters and fliers for events, correspondence between artists and RPI faculty and administrators, technical schedules for performances, and more.

Additional research information The Bang Arts Festival materials are housed in the Richard Carlyon papers in the Special Collections and Archives housed in Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library.

Much of the history of the festival is sourced from Carol Sutton’s narrative of the festival, available online here. Additional historical information came from Eleanor Rufty Carlyon’s account, a part of the collection, available here.

Other accounts of the history of the Bang Arts Festival can be read here:

This material is protected by copyright, and copyright is held by VCU. You are permitted to use this material in any way that is permitted by copyright. In addition, this material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Acknowledgment of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries as a source is required.

Posters 1-7 from this collection were digitized by the Library of Virginia. Cynthia Blaise, Naomy Cardoso-Perez, Katie Condon, and Susan Grube digitized all other materials in this collection from 2023-2024. Katie Condon supervised student employees, digitization, and quality control. Digital Initiatives Librarian Irina Rogova created the metadata in 2024.


Browse the Bang Arts Festival, Richmond Professional Institute, 1964-1967 Collections:

Bang Arts Festival Documents

Bang Arts Festival Images