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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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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Jon Trippel


By happy coincidence (or was it?) the painting that brought us together was hanging right there in the cafe. Detail on Jon's site.


My friend Lawrence was in my studio looking at photographs when he recognized his friend Jon Trippel in one of them, painting in plein air. Jon called me the next day and agreed to meet for a coffee.

I had planned it to be a quickie followed by an afternoon photo safari. After two hours with Jon I realized that the journey and the photo session would happen right there in La Taza.


The photo that brought us together. The painting in the photo that brought us together can be seen on Jon's site.

One look at Jon's work reveals an adventuresome spirit and an active mind. Our conversation traveled through some of his many experiences and more than a few subjects which he knows well. His path has not been a straight one but there are some threads that connect it all together, his art chief among them.

As in his life, Jon's paintings are a sum of observations, with each element treated on its own terms and given its due; yet he works equally hard to unify the whole. That tension gives the work its burning life-force and it has motivated his journey thus far.


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.

Project Description | More Photos: Places | People

Friday, June 24, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Lawrence and Sophie

Lawrence and Sophie arrived at our block party with a big trey of food. I photographed them there.

I first met them while they were taking a walk and I was planting a willow tree—in my back yard. Belmont is crisscrossed with unpaved two-track alleys between lots. Some of them are more picturesque than others but they’re all peaceful and they present a different view than what you get on the main streets. They’re great for over-the-fence chats.

It makes perfect sense that I would meet those two in such a place. Lawrence is an amateur photographer, a keen observer, and very engaging. He speaks to the people he meets and he knows about some hidden gems around the neighborhood. It’s an active process for him. Companion Sophie is friendly and equally curious.

With an explorer’s mentality and an apartment in the heart of Monticello Road, Lawrence has quickly become a terrific resource for information, feedback, and conversation. He’s gracious and an eternal learner. That’s what this whole thing is about: bringing people together, sharing and learning about and from one another.

My willow started to seem a little scraggly for a while when it got dry but Lawrence reassured me the other day that it is doing well. I think he’s right.


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.

Project Description | More Photos: Places | People

Monday, June 20, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Alexander House


The Engine that runs Alexander House: (from left to right) Emma, Misty, Angel, Flame, Raven, Kassia, Sky.


Alexander House is a collectively-owned-and-operated inn and hostel. The kitchen has a world map on the wall, with colored dots each indicating the origin of a set of guests. There’s one in the center of Australia, one in the deepest Congo, and one in the Ural mountains at the heart of the Eurasian landmass. Germany is completely covered and the United States looks like one of those enhanced nighttime satellite images that shows population centers.

This unique business welcomes guests from all over the globe and travelers of many modes and many means. Monticello Road is part of the transnational bikeway and as a result, the bike rack outside often boast several sets of saddle bags. It is possible to rent a room, the entire house or even a berth in the bunkhouse. It is as welcoming to mothers of brides as it is to bikers.

The place is immaculately clean and inviting, the guests quiet and exemplary--an enormous credit to the collective and a reflection of their sensibilities. They’re terrific neighbors and stewards and their visitors bring stories from far-away places.

Charlottesville is surprisingly cosmopolitan for such a small town, with a quaint exterior and a self-conscious sense of geography and history, combined with a not-contradictory yearning to find new ways of doing things. Alexander House displays all of these traits and, sitting as it does at the geographic center of Monticello Road, it is a great place to put our bags down and begin exploring.


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.

Project Description | More Photos: Places | People
Alexander House Info | Bios

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Primary Colors


The Awakening. Ink and watercolor on paper, 9" x 12". I made this drawing while in residency in a secluded mountain cabin. I've never felt so awake or alive.


Richard Louv talks about the importance primary (as opposed to secondary or received) experience, conveyed through the five senses.

I’ve always felt that it’s the artist’s role to invigorate those senses, to tickle them with a feather. It’s the artist’s job to investigate the world, to be active explorers and then report back in a way that awakens others to their own experiences and see the world with more intensity and nuance.

There's a linkage between the natural world and our engagement in our sensory experience and Louv discusses that as well. That’s the main thing I want to explore with the Story|Line kids: encourage them to tune in to the world around them, make note of it and share what they’ve found.

The more they do that, the more they will be artists.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Children of the Forest


Ragged Mountain Reservoir will be our first destination. It's a very accessible wild place--but not for long. Reservoir expansion will inundate the trail system.


Story|Line is a program in which we lead children on an urban hike and then tell stories and draw a huge mural about their experience. This year, we’re changing things a little bit and taking them on a road less traveled (by them). We’re trading streets and sidewalks for trails and streams; we’re taking them into the woods. One day they’ll visit our reservoir; the second will be a trail system along a stream; and the third will be a river.

When we hatched the concept, we knew intuitively that urban children could gain something they lack and that exposure to Nature would open important doors within their creative lives, though I must say that our ideas were somewhat vague. Then we came across a book that had been passed around some of the architects’ offices that talks explicitly about what we are trying to accomplish with the program.

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv explains why direct exposure to Nature is so essential to a child’s physical and (especially) emotional development. He sites a confluence of two major trends. On the one hand, human development has moved us farther from the land in all that we do. Most Americans of just two generations ago grew up in rural homes that lacked electricity. In a very short time, their grandchildren have become divorced from the land in all they do—work, play, eat, drink and sleep.

At the same time, the Naturalist movement has also become very abstract, focusing on global trends and microbiology. Clearly these things are important but they do not resemble actual experience. So our educators are not talking about trees or even forests—it’s soil and airborn CO2. Does Nature and its experience have a part in Environmental Science?

Whether we like it or not, we’re large mammals and have more in common with squirrels than with charts and numbers. At a minimum, we suffer if we completely ignore the physical world of which we are part. Immersion in the riot of life and death that is nature re-centers that balance.

It will be very interesting to see what the children have to say—and draw—about their experience in these places so foundational yet so alien. I always learn more from the children than I teach them. I’m really looking forward to being around them and sharing their explorations and growth.