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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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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Dan and Serena


There's a lot of love in this household and it conveys very well in this image. The only thing I don't like about it is that it omits my favorite guy of the bunch: Sorin


“How much garlic are you putting on the steak?”

“A lot—where I come from we worry about Vampires.”

That was a typical exchange between my friend Dan and his father-in-law Sorin, who is from Romania, as they prepared a summer feast of steak and fresh vegetables. Dan and Serena were kind enough to let me spend an evening with them, their children and Serena’s parents. It was a lively evening of conversation, jokes and a little bit of photography. Best of all, they let me stay to taste that yummy steak.

Dan and Serena live on the steep, narrow section of Monticello Road in a house that must have been chosen for its site, which affords a panoramic view of Monticello and Carter’s Mountain. Dan is an architect (Serena is a graphic designer) and the house is conceived to maximize this advantage, with the entire rear wall of the open kitchen/common room devoted to windows.

A few inventive features make a good view great. For example, no upper cabinets block the panorama (there is correspondingly more and smarter storage below); the angle of the L-shaped windows is not square, preventing a hall-of-mirrors reflection; and rooms are all reshuffled to bring the rooms where they spend the most time (such as the kitchen) into the spots where the view is most spectacular. The fa├žade of the house is quite simple and one could easily walk past without knowing how much thought went into everything beyond that front wall.

I met Dan and Serena because their firm is helping us re-imagine our own home, so it was a treat to learn that they're neighbors and to walk into one of their projects. The thing that we like best about Dan's approach is that he focused squarely on the house we have—in fact, he was the only architect we interviewed not to recommend some elaborate addition (although his firm can do that too).

This neighborhood has never been known for its fanciness or pretension but it isn’t mean or course either. The vernacular is modest but sufficient, economical but lovely. The Zimmermans’ home is a contemporary take on the timeless notion that guides so much of what happens on this street: quality (of space, in this case) means more than quantity.

When the meat had all been devoured and it came time to steer the little ones toward bed, I thanked the gracious hosts and walked up the hill back to my own little house and family. Along the way, I thought about what a special thing we have here.


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

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.

Project Description | More Photos: Places | People

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The People of Monticello Road: Rosie

Rosie in her yard with her namesake flowers.

Everyone should have a neighbor like Rosie.

She’s friendly and as generous with her smiles and greetings as she is with her excellent quick breads. She brings out those yummy treats whenever she gets the notion or if you do something nice for her. It’s always more than worth while.

That’s a magical thing about Rosie: helping her out feels like an automatic thing and before she even asks, friends and neighbors show up to shovel her snow, mow her lawn, or fix her car. And she is always there for us.

Rosie has a grace that encourages us to be the best people we can be and a love that sews people—and neighborhoods together. You know it the first time you meet her: this is a good person to be around.


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