Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: The Local

Sam (left) is a maven of the Charlottesville Art Scene; he occasionally tends bar at the Local. On this night I ran into my studio-mate Matt and his fiance Liz, making three of my favorite people in a room full of friends.

I’m just crazy about The Local. They get it right in so many ways.

The food is terrific, the staff is friendly, and the ambiance is nearly perfect. The main room is a former photography studio (bonus points for that!) and the bar integrates light tables from that former incarnation. They give your drink a strange bluish glow. There’s a big back terrace, a quiet upstairs, which is perfect for events, and then there’s the front balcony, which has a commanding view of the street (people-watching) and a distinctly New Orleans feeling—but with views of the mountains.

The name of the place derives from the strong preference for locally-sourced ingredients, which pepper the menu but the thing that I like best about the place is that it's a gathering place for the neighborhood. That’s a direct reflection of owner Adam Frazier, who is very active and supportive of the neighborhood community. Among many other things, The Local is a major sponsor of the Clark 5K, which I co-direct, and they’ve agreed to host this exhibition (Monticello Road) after it finishes at the Bridge, plus whatever additional events/readings/etc we wish to have.

The Local gives a lot to the community, but the neighborhood supports the restaurant with many regular customers. It’s a terrific and central place to meet, there’s plenty of room (even though it can be quite busy there), and I’m assured to run into someone I know there. Something about the place encourages dialog between strangers and I have made a habit of going there regularly in search of participants for this project—and I always leave knowing a few more people.

I had planned to dedicate this entry to the periodic musical gathering there, where I do much of my "research." Upon surveying the room, however, most everyone told me that it was crowded enough and that I should not spread the word. So I won’t say when it happens but I will say that it’s shockingly good.

The whole experience there is great—relaxing and well worth a trip. When you visit Monticello Road, stop in for a beer or a meal. It’s an essential part of the experience and one that will leave you completely satisfied.

The People of Monticello Road is a weekly series of profiles that will run through the summer. Monticello Road is a photography and story-telling project about the people and places along a mile-long byway that is simultaneously humble and historic, home to many and a reflection of us all. There will be an exhibition and much more in the Spring of 2012.

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