Celebrating the Life of Ginger Rich Barnett
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we share the passing of Virginia “Ginger” Rich Barnett.
Virginia Rich Barnett born Virginia Rich in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 16, 1934.
Virginia lost her battle with terminal cancer, on July 9, 2016. The youngest daughter of Virginia Lazarus Rich and Richard H. Rich of the Rich’s Department Store Chain, established in Atlanta Georgia in 1867. She is survived by her husband Robert J. Barnett, her two sons, Robert J. Barnett Jr. (wife Elizabeth Murphy Barnett and their two sons Ryan and Austin), David Michael Barnett (wife Jackie Mata Barnett and son Aaron), and her sister Sally E. Darling (husband Richard). She was predeceased by her brother Michael Peter Rich, in 1991. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and colleagues in the Art of Dance, all very dear to her heart.
Virginia Barnett was a major force in the Georgia’s arts community for many years and played an instrumental role in the establishment of dance in the Southeast. Her career encompassed both ballet and modern dance. Ms. Barnett shared her passion for artistic excellence in the capacities of teacher, arts advocate, administrator and above all performing artist.
Ms. Barnett’s dance training began at the age of three. She received her training with Dorothy Alexander in Atlanta at the Atlanta School of Ballet, in London, England at the Royal Ballet School and in New York City at the School of American Ballet.
She danced with the Atlanta Civic Ballet later to be named the Atlanta Ballet, at the Radio City Music Hall and in an NBC television series under the direction of Choreographer John Butler. In 1955, Ms. Barnett’s childhood dream was realized when she joined the New York City Ballet - working under the direction of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She performed with the New York City Ballet and toured nationally and internationally for almost four years. She then returned to her native Atlanta to serve as Associate Director and Principal Dancer with the Atlanta Ballet.
In 1969 Ms. Barnett left the Atlanta Ballet to form along with Carl Ratcliff and Teena Stern – the Southeast’s first Modern Dance Company, the Carl Ratcliff Dance Theatre, for which she remained Associate Director and Principal Dancer until 1994. Her dedication to teaching continued at the Atlanta School of Ballet throughout her career.
Ms. Barnett served on the Dance panel for the Georgia Council for the Arts, Fulton County Arts Council, and Atlanta’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs. In 1975, the American Association of University Women presented her with an Outstanding Leadership Award and in 1984 she received the Georgia Governor’s Award in the Arts honoring her life-long contributions to the art of dance.
Ms. Barnett and her husband Robert (Artistic Director Emeritus of Atlanta Ballet) retired to live in Asheville, N C., in 1996. After her retirement from her life with the Art of Dance, both Modern and Classical, her pride and joy were her three grandsons, Aaron (17), Ryan (12) and Austin (8), as well as the time she spent daily in her extensive gardens, inside and outside of her home, with her beloved plants and flowers.