Pamela Reynolds—Patron of the Arts and Work of Art

In case you missed this great article about RVA’s #1 fashionista in the Times-Dispatch this weekend, we have it here for you at Cobblestone Couture.  Enjoy!

By Julie Young of the Richmond Times-Dispatch

On a visit to a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts affiliate in Martinsville two years ago, Pamela Reynolds was approached by a soft-spoken 17-year-old girl.

“I want to ask you something,” the shy young woman said to Reynolds, a Richmond arts icon known for her eccentric fashion sense. “Where did you get your tights?”

“Oh, I don’t know — somewhere,” Reynolds replied. The two began talking as they walked through Piedmont Arts.

“I told her to call me Pam and she said her name was Julie,” Reynolds said. “She said her girlfriend’s boyfriend wanted her to come because she had never been to a museum.

“She asked me,” Reynolds recalled in disbelief, carefully enunciating each word, “if one artist made all of this art.

“She hadn’t been because there was no money [in the school budget]. We arranged that night for Bassett Furniture to fund a bus so these students could go to the museum.”

Another artistic triumph for Reynolds, president of the Virginia Museum’s board of trustees and herself a work of art.

“She came up because of what I had on, which was good,” Reynolds said with a shrug.

. . .

Pamela Coe Reynolds, instantly recognizable around Richmond with her trademark platinum blunt-cut pageboy, fire-engine red lipstick and eye-popping fashions, carries a load of volunteer responsibilities on her petite frame.

In addition to more than 20 years as a Virginia Museum trustee, Reynolds serves or has served on the boards of the Richmond Ballet, Richmond Symphony, Virginia Opera, the Valentine Richmond History Center, Richmond CenterStage, TheatreVirginia, Theatre IV, the Carpenter Center and more. She was an organizer of the Richmond Children’s Festival, created the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, co-chaired June Jubilee — the city’s first arts festival — and has spearheaded countless fundraisers.

“To me, Pam is ‘art’ in Richmond,” said Elizabeth “Libby” Robertson, president of the Richmond Ballet. “Any successful arts gala or other event in Richmond has Pam somehow involved at the forefront or in the background, but always involved.”

Friends and acquaintances describe her as a bundle of energy who sleeps little and fires off e-mails at all hours — dreamlike ramblings filled with ideas.

Pam and Richard S. “Major” Reynolds III, a member of the Reynolds Metals family, are one of the city’s long-standing power couples. Reynolds, brother of the late Virginia Lt. Gov. J. Sargeant Reynolds, heads the philanthropic Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, which has given millions to the arts and other beneficiaries, including the neuro-oncology unit in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, the Reynolds Business History Center at the Virginia Historical Society and Democratic Party causes.

“Major is her great silent partner in all of this,” said Bill Martin, a longtime friend and director of the Valentine Richmond History Center, where she’s also a trustee. “He’s the person who supports her and is actively engaged in her fundraising events. He’s always there.”

Pam Reynolds was elected president of the VMFA board in July 2007, in the midst of the 74-year-old museum’s renovation and expansion that will add 165,000 square feet to its existing 380,000-square-foot space by this spring.

Reynolds said she’s humbled to be at the helm for an “awesome, daunting experience. Everybody has worked so hard. It’s important to me that everyone be recognized as part of the family.”

“She has an enormous sense of responsibility,” said Thurston Moore, managing partner at Hunton & Williams and a member of the VMFA board. “She really puts her heart and soul into it.”

On a recent tour of the museum, scheduled to reopen May 1, Reynolds maneuvered through construction zones with a red hard hat perched on her blond bob. Reynolds and museum director Alex Nyerges were hosting H. Richard Dietrich III, president of the Dietrich American Foundation, which holds a vast collection of 18th-century American decorative and fine arts.

Reynolds had met Dietrich at a dinner party last June at Patricia Kluge’s Albemarle County estate. The ex-wife of billionaire John Kluge, and a budding winemaker was honoring Benjamin Wallace, author of “The Billionaire’s Vinegar,” a tale about a bottle of Thomas Jefferson’s wine.

“I had the good fortune to sit across from Pam,” Dietrich said above the piercing whine of saws. “She mentioned all the great things happening at VMFA and so I came down during the summer.”

As a result, the Dietrich Foundation is loaning the museum significant pieces that will fill gaps in its collection. “She’s always trying to build these relationships, build the collections of the museum,” Nyerges said.

“Alex is the brains,” said Reynolds. “I’m just the cheerleader.”

. . .

In conservative Richmond, Reynolds is one of few high-profile women with a devil-may-care style sense. Although she’s an extraordinarily public figure with a gregarious personality, she fiercely guards her private life.

Pamela Susan Coe and Richard Samuel Reynolds III were married Nov. 22, 1975, the month Major was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, according to a wedding notice published the next day in The New York Times. She was a consultant for the office of marketing and education at the Federal Energy Administration in Washington and former assistant for the arts and director of cultural affairs for the interior secretary.

The account said she graduated from the prestigious Professional Children’s School in New York. A who’s who of alumni includes Milton Berle, Vera Wang, Yo-Yo Ma and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The couple has no children although Major, a Woodberry Forest and Princeton graduate, has three children by a previous marriage.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, friends and family members look forward to the Reynolds’ annual photo greeting. The couple sends Valentines instead of Christmas cards. “She’s done that for years,” said close friend Katie Ukrop. “She loves Valentine’s Day. The card’s always got a really cute picture on it.”

Reynolds holds friends close, but the media at arm’s length. She consents to a profile only if the emphasis will be placed on the teams she works with on various boards. She gently changes the subject when a personal question arises.

Instead of an interview in her Windsor Farms home, she suggests meeting for a walk along Old Locke Lane with her frisky 4-year-old cairn terrier, Rob Roy, named for the Scottish folk hero.

Reynolds hops out of her gray Audi station wagon, dressed in an assortment of plaids from head to foot, with the freshly groomed terrier on a leash and a stash of blue poop-collection bags looped around the strap of her shoulder bag.

Half sprinting behind the sturdy little terrier along the narrow road in Richmond’s swankiest neighborhood, Reynolds, 67, explains that part of her media reluctance comes from snarky comments posted online beneath a story about a friend years ago. She said she doesn’t want anything printed that might cast her causes in a bad light.

In 1996, Reynolds spearheaded one of the city’s biggest-ever soirees — the lavish Russian-themed Fabergé Ball, which raised more than $1 million for the VMFA endowment. Some tabloid-style coverage of the ball in the local media stung Reynolds.

Particularly painful were unattributed jabs at her outfit — a dress made from a collection of Lillian Thomas Pratt silk scarves and a fanned headdress.

“No doubt, there are things she’s taken very personally,” said Martin. “She’s not so much hurt as surprised when people don’t get the whole thing — her 24/7 commitment to the things she’s involved in.”

The Fabergé attire earned a place in the Valentine Richmond History Center alongside gowns worn by Mary Ball Washington, mother of George, and first lady Dolley Madison.

“When you think of Pam, you have to think of amazing clothes,” said Martin. “The Fabergé Ball dress fits with a number of other things that marked occasions in our community’s life that we thought should be a part of our collection.”

“Fashion is something that just comes natural to me,” Reynolds said.

In spite of years of volunteerism and millions given to charities large and small, Reynolds seems doggedly defined by her eclectic wardrobe choices.

“She’s a magnet for a camera,” says longtime friend Suzanne Hall, chief communications officer for the Virginia Museum. “Her outfits are part of her creative expression. That doesn’t mean, however, that she’s not serious about her business.”

For last fall’s SPCA Fur Ball, which raised $416,000, Reynolds descended the steps of The Jefferson Hotel wearing a black top covered with circular images of the event’s honorary chair — Rob Roy — and a plaid miniskirt over a knee-length polka-dot skirt with turquoise lace leggings.

Where does she shop? Georgetown — in particular a shop called Zara — is a favorite for Reynolds and her buddies. She likes Forever 21, Anthropologie and discovered Internet shopping a couple of years ago.

“She’s a huge bargain shopper,” Ukrop said. “The girls at Anthropologie know if she’s waiting for something to go on sale.”

Reynolds, Martin and Ukrop have forged what Ukrop acknowledges is a curious triumvirate over the past five years. They take day trips, shop or meet for dinner at Reynolds’ favorite restaurant, Edo’s Squid on North Harrison Street.

Ukrop said Reynolds is “the most devoted friend you could ever have. She almost takes on her friends as she does her causes.”

When Martin was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, Reynolds was among “a group of angels without whom I wouldn’t have survived my treatment. For six months, she [Reynolds] called every day. She provided food, although she does no cooking, and she’d even pop in on my chemo.”

During one of Martin’s treatments, Reynolds and other well-meaning friends got kicked out of VCU Medical Center. “They had planned this elaborate picnic, with beautiful tablecloths and wonderful food,” Martin recalled, laughing. A nurse had to tell them they were making too much noise, he said.

Whether it’s a museum project, her taste in clothes or her choice of friends, Reynolds has left a mark on Richmond by bringing together seemingly dissimilar entities.

“She’s brilliant at making connections between things that other people don’t see,” Martin said.

Her ability to unite bridges gulfs that otherwise might exist between museum trustees, donors and staffs, Martin said.

“She’s made us all think about the VMFA as the VMFA family, and that family is so critical to our being so successful,” Nyerges said.

Being wealthy helps her causes, but Reynolds’ generosity goes deeper, Martin said. “She believes people have a fundamental responsibility to use the gifts you’ve been given, whether it’s money, talent or anything else,” he said.

“She and Major always are bringing new people to each performance of the ballet or event to support the ballet,” Robertson said. “She is very grass roots when it comes to including people in the arts world.”

One young girl in Martinsville who now understands art museums would vouch for that.

“If you take on a project, you have a great responsibility to work hard,” said Reynolds. “I always want people to realize that I do work hard and I try to make Richmond a better community.”


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