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


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Friday, July 29, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Doc Frazier


Moose, co-proprietor of the Moore’s Creek Family Restaurant, introduced me to Robert Lee “Doctor” Frazier. The restaurant’s name is emblazoned on the side of Doc’s racing car (pictured).


“The Dukes of Hazard got nothing on me.”

Robert Lee “Doc” Frazier is full of tales of youthful bravado and recklessness. Great-nephew Kenny Geer, Jr. and his son paused from their lunch to vouch that most of his stories are true. I can attest that he’s extremely generous with his time.

I had hardly met Doc and explained my project when I found myself in his truck, seeking the lost southern traces of Monticello Road, where it disappears into the brambles, creek, interstate riprap, old sanitarium, and cemetery. He showed me where the right-of-way emerges at the since-transplanted mill. I’ll have to go back and explore on my own.

All the while, Doc regaled me with what had been: a Tastee Freeze and a beer joint, dirt roads and country stores, all transformed or departed. There were harrowing tales of high-speed chases and many a near-miss involving fast cars, double-dares, state troopers, creek-jumping, falling trees, and the inevitable wad of buckshot in the backside.

He’s extremely entertaining and an hour with him is much better than any television show. It’s not nostalgia either—more of a burning passion for life sweetened with much friendliness and readiness to share. Those traits exist in abundance at Moore’s Creek Family Restaurant, unofficial gathering place of Central Virginia’s dirt track racing scene and so many other colorful characters, many of whom merit a book of their own.

I can’t wait to go back for the delicious southern-style breakfast and story-telling, served up all day long.


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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Leslie at Hazel Beauty Bar


Sorry to say that Hazel didn't make it into this photo--she's just out of frame to the upper right. To see her, you'll have to visit in person.


Hazel is a pastel drawing of a blonde in a simple country dress and she watches from the wall with a stern look. Leslie found her in the trash some time ago, put on a nice frame and hung on the wall of her new shop. Leslie’s son is also represented, in a small photo in the corner of the mirror. You’re likely to hear about him when you visit.

The premises itself is as modest as Hazel’s attire. It’s a small brick-and-cinderblock building that she shares with a vintage shop, next door to Spudnuts—a constant temptation to proprietor and customer alike. It has everything needed for a great haircut: chair, mirror, scissors, product, washing sink, and ace stylist.

It’s not fancy but it is very classy in its understatedness and that is very much a reflection of Leslie’s personality. Some people try to buy beauty or add frills but her approach is subtractive. A few smart decisions carry the day, which is exactly the right sensibility for someone cutting hair. In this world, there’s no going back: only growing back.

Leslie opened her beauty bar this past spring without a banner or marketing campaign—just a small, spontaneous party for friends, of which she has many. I was her client at her previous location and extremely happy to learn that she had moved into the neighborhood. It’s a friendly spot—social as such establishments tend to be, but never overwhelming.

It’s calm and relaxing like a massage. I find myself looking forward to my next haircut.


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
Hazel Beauty Bar

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: The Mayor


Alex (center) celebrates Cinco de Mayo with friends at La Taza's tiki bar.


Alex is the mayor of Belmont's nightlife. He's as well loved as he is known throughout the neighborhood. He's a beautiful human being--even if he does hang a Yankees banner from his porch.

He's a transplant from New York but it's been quite a few years and he's quite enmeshed in the fiber of Charlottesville. He's the type of person you see everywhere and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he knew everybody in the city. He probably could run successfully for office. He possesses an admirable mix of knowledge and charm and a good resource for the community.

Alex doesn't really need your vote, but he'll take it.


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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Story|Line 2011


The completed mural. More photos coming soon on StoryLine site.


This year’s StoryLine was wonderful—way beyond my expectations. It restored my faith in many things, but most of all the children.

First a quick intro for those who need it: StoryLine is a multi-entity collaboration with Charlottesville Parks & Recreation that takes children from their summer camps on a series of neighborhood walks and culminates with a mural on our Free Expression Wall. This year’s walks were in the woods at a reservoir, a creek, and a river—a three-part examination of a single set of water’s pathways both visible and invisible. [Full schedule/info]

It was tremendous fun to hang out with the kids and walk in the woods with them, but the thing that blew me away the most, aside from the general enthusiasm, was the high-level at which everything happened. Each walk included a naturalist, who introduced the topics, answered questions and connected tremendously well with the kids. Their resumes read like a who’s-who of water and conservation. Those scholars were completely matched in quality by our volunteers: artists, architects, photographers. All gave tremendous amounts of their time and they did so without hesitation.

The kids were even more impressive. First of all, they could really draw—the art they produced was amazing. They were simultaneously energetic and very focused; they had no trouble paying attention and were full of surprises.

Here’s the most hilarious example. We took a break from our fourth session (the wall drawing) to hear from a delegation from Afghanistan, an imminent group that included a supreme court judge and ministry officials. One of them asked, with a smile, if any of the kids knew where their country is located.

A child answered: “In the center of Asia between Turkmenistan, Iran, and Pakistan.” A shocked silence was followed by the admission that the individual had been born in the country, then a few friendly greetings in Dari (or was it Pashto?)

No assumptions about the children were valid—especially anything to do with limitations. This was an amazing group of kids doing excellent work. I am honored to have walked among them and completely motivated for my own work.

The main thought I carry with me is this: I have to find a way to do this all the time.

I blogged about each day on the StoryLine web site:

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Hyam at Clay Fitness


Hyam's athletic training class looked like such fun, I wanted to try a session myself.


Hyam will make you work. You’ll be accountable and inspired. You’ll love it.

Clay’s approach is unique in many ways. You don’t join as a member, although structured 12-week programs are encouraged, you can also drop in for one class at a time, as I did. I tried the early-morning Cycle+Core and it was a very significant workout.

They have diverse offerings and there’s tons of variety within each session so boredom is the last thing on your mind. They work the whole body with bikes, hurdles, ropes, balls, bells, and, most importantly, your own weight and resistance. This whole-body approach is reflected in the emphasis on nutrition and wellness.

The group dynamic is entirely supportive, Hyam’s own story of reinvention is inspirational, and her personal magnetism is undeniable. But it’s not about her or the other people in the room, it’s about finding something within yourself. Indeed, just as I thought I was about to keel over from the effort about half-way through, something clicked within me and I started working even harder. I was actually surprised.

That was no accident: the whole thing is set up for you to find your inner strength and get into a virtuous cycle where results and morale feed each other. You’ll want to stick with it.

By the end I was spent and as I was staggering home, I thought about my training in new ways-- and very much looking forward to the yogurt-fruit combo that was waiting for me.


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 | More about ClayFitness + Nutrition