Maruta Racenis is a notable fixture in the Richmond Art Scene; not just for her dreamy watercolors but also as the co-owner of the legendary Main Art Supply. A naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated from Latvia, Maruta’s family settled in Buffalo, New York where Racenis was educated earning an undergrad degree in Art Education at SUNY in Buffalo and a Masters in printmaking from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She came to Richmond in the 1970’s when her late husband, Ken Winebrenner, came to VCU to teach in the art school. “I love the warm climate here,” she says.
Having worked in many mediums over her career, Racenis now paints, mostly in watercolors that usually sprout from memory. “I am inspired by whatever was happening that day from atmosphere and the sense of the place,” she says. When she taught watercolor painting at the VMFA and as an art teacher in Richmond City Schools, she shared some interesting techniques she likes using herself. “I love the fluidity of water colors,” she explains. “I am a supporter of splash and dribble [method] because sometimes you get this wonderful unexpected results that you can control or replicate.”
Of all her accomplishments, she speaks most fondly of her 33 years co-owning Main Art Supply with Janet DeCover. “When we opened up on Main Street there were only two businesses on the block. We were pioneers in getting the community going as far as revitalizing that block,” she says. “Anybody who was in art or an artist in Richmond must have come by that store at some point or another.”
Racenis, now retired after the closing of Main Art Supply, happily spends her days painting in her studio in the Fan with her cat Mr. Kitty in close proximity.