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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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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Monticello Road Book = Holiday Gift Idea


Filled with familiar faces and places, the Monticello Road book is perhaps the fullest expression of what the project--and the neighborhood--are all about. And it's sharable!

This eighty-page, full color collection is a terrific gift, a great way to remember this place at this moment--or to tell other people about it. Consider it for your own home, or your out of town family or friends.

As with everything in this project, the book is available on a pay-what-you-can basis, starting at the production cost ($50) plus shipping (if applicable). People have generally chosen to spend $50-$75.

There are several signed copies in the McGuffey gift shop and in my studio. If you would like me to personalize it, gift wrap, drop off, or ship, just let me know.

Contact me for more info.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

StoryLine at VA Film Fest


StoryLine was a three day Summer journey in which kids traced the route from Monticello to Main Street, culminating with a mural about the peolpe they met along the way.

Here's some exciting news: a short documentary about the StoryLine Project will be screened in-situ at the Free Expression Wall during Family Day at the 2012 Virginia Film Festival.

The November 3 program will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a brief presentation by Thomas Jefferson himself (actually a stand-in look-alike), followed by a Q&A and then the screening. It's free and open to the public.

The Free Expression Monument is located at the East end of Charlottesville's historic Downtown Mall. To learn more about StoryLine (whose theme this year was Monticello Road) please read the thread on this blog or visit the project's web site.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Preston Coiner Tribute this Sunday


Listen to 15 minutes of highlights from Preston's talk at our April Storytelling session.

Preston Coiner was a Belmont native, a Clark alum, a generous spirit and a masterful storyteller. He spun some yarns for us at the Monticello Road storytelling event this past April and we were fortunate enough to catch him on tape. We will hear some brief highlights of Preston from that afternoon and share many more recollections about the neighborhood at the Where I Live discussion this Sunday at C’ville Coffee.

Sponsored by the Historic Resources Committee and Celebrate 250, this event is a chance to listen, learn, and discuss the history of one of Charlottesville most interesting neighborhoods. What better way to celebrate this Belmont original than with an afternoon of storytelling?

See you there! Bring your stories, photos and curiosity.

Where I Live: Belmont will take place Sunday September 30 from 3-5 p.m. C’Ville Coffee is located at 1301 Harris Street, Charlottesville, VA.

Print Tributes:
Daily Progress Tribute
Charlottesville Then and Now
DTM
Obituary
Monticello Road Home Page

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where We Live: Belmont


Ficklin or "Bel Mont" Mansion, UVA Special Collections, c. 1970s. From Historic Resources Committee

Please stop by C’ville Coffee on Sunday, September 20 from 3-5 p.m. for some serious story sharing.

Where we Live—Stories from Yesterday and Today discussion series focuses on a different neighborhood every month and this month they’ve chosen Belmont.I'm sure there will be much talk about Monticello Road, Clark, and many familiar faces and places.

Come out and share your stories, reflections and recollections. Just like last time, we will be recording the stories for posterity.

Where We Live is presented by the Historic Resources Committee and Celebrate250.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Autumn Folklore Opportunities


Monticello Road has more than its share of history and colorful storytellers. This autumn, you'll be able to see/hear/join them.

Just as the photography phase of the project was wrapping up this summer, I heard from exactly the right person to help us move onto the next stage: oral histories.

Kristin Rourke is a public historian who is working with the City on several ventures related to oral histories and historic preservation. In a coup of divine grace her efforts this fall focus on Belmont and she has agreed to help with the oral histories and audio tour of Monticello Road.

I couldn't dream up a better collaborator. She is responsible for the very cool audio tour of downtown Charlottesville and is coordinating many of the City’s oral history efforts. She brings exactly the skills and resources we need.

This fall, we begin work on a nine-station cell-phone tour of Monticello Road. We’ll hear from and about many of the people and places we’ve met throughout the project and the signpost kiosks will give the project a real and lasting legacy in the community. More about that soon.

In the meantime, there are a few ways you can jump right in and take part in the neighborhood storysharing.

The Where I Live… Stories from Yesterday and Today series invites neighborhood residents and the greater Charlottesville community to gather together and talk about where they live. The September 30 session focuses on Belmont and will be a chance to share and hear stories about the Belmont of yesteryear and today. That’s Sunday September 30 3-5 p.m. at Cville Coffee.

This year, Preservation Piedmont’s Fall Tour will focus on Belmont and the story it tells about working communities in Charlottesville. The event takes place on Saturday, October 13, from 11:00 to 12:30, with a guided walking tour of Western Belmont, led by Kristin and landscape architect Laura Knott. The tour will be a discussion of the history of the Frank Ix and Sons textile factory and the houses throughout Belmont that the company built for its employees, as well as an inside tour of one of these houses.

On Sunday, October 14, from 2-5, Preservation Piedmont will host the Open House Tour, which will feature a variety of homes, structures, and sites in and around Downtown Belmont. The recommended route begins on the grounds of the Ficklin/Belmont Mansion at 759 Belmont Avenue.

As we move into our next phase, keep checking in to learn more about the exciting autumn of neighborhood history and folklore. For more information about Charlottesville's historic celebrations, please visit www.charlottesville.org/historicresources or call (434) 970-3333. You can also read more about future discussions at http://celebrate250.com/

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

C-ville Kickstarter Interview


Among many other things, the Kickstarter campaign funded the Faces of Monticello Road, a community slideshow that ran for a week in July.


On Tuesday, July 31, the C-Ville Weekly ran a story by Katy Nelson about Kickstarter with several references to and quotes about Monticello Road, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign. Monticello Road is a great example not only because it used crowdsourcing to raise funds but because it is for and about the community as well. It is a tool that’s well suited to aid the project’s mission.

It was a short piece that touched on many things. I wanted to focus on the aspects that relate to art’s role in the community, so for greater depth, here is the full text of our conversation.

Nelson: Can you tell me about how you used Kickstarter to fund Monticello Road?

Krebs: Everything about my project is about removing barriers between people and there can at times be an invisible wall keeping too many people away from the arts. So if the project was to succeed in the way I wanted, it was important to make the art itself completely accessible to everyone--far beyond the usual suspects who go to openings. I wanted the art to be incredibly affordable. And so it was: everything was either free or pay-what-you-can. Yet, it all cost money--alot--so I wanted to find a way to fundraise that was completely optional (and mostly invisible) and that would allow people with little means to make small contributions and have it be really meaningful.

Kickstarter made a lot of sense because it's focused primarily on social networks (as is my project so there's a natural overlap) but it's not geographically limited as a donation box would be for example. The whole thing is about community and this allowed really wide participation and everyone to feel like their contribution (no matter how small) would be essential. And that turned out to be the case--we made our initial goal by just $6. As I see it, communities are interconnected webs of interaction and sharing. This created another layer, which was great.

The other thing that's good about Kickstarter is that the user controls the schedule (as opposed to grants which have their own cycle which can be very, very long) and there are no strings attached except those that I determine with my community, the contributors. So in my case, the campaign coincided with the show at the Bridge and the goal was to raise all the funds required for the exhibition, the many associated events, plus production costs for the free and subsidized stuff I gave away.

In the end, not all my backers wanted to participate in kickstarter but they wanted to donate so I got a second and unexpected wave of private donations afterward and those paid for the exhibit and public slideshow at the Local and a little seed money for the next project.

Nelson: Before crowd funding, how did you and other local artists finance your art exhibits? Has Kickstarter made it easier to find funding?

Krebs: Artists depended mostly on sales. By taking the whole selling business out of the equation work can be more mission- (as opposed to acquisition-) oriented. It provides a new channel for funding but it's one of many ways and I only used it because it made sense--not because it's better than any other.

Nelson: Were a lot of your backers people that you knew personally? Or were they simply people who discovered your project online?

Krebs: The vast, vast majority were people I already knew. The onus is on the person with the project to recruit funders and it requires a very concerted effort to reach an ambitious goal. Still there were a few pledges that came came through kickstarter, which was neat, but it's more about mobilizing your existing network than growing it. Because it's about your network, the donations will reflect the geographic distribution of your circle of friends.

Nelson: Do you know a lot of local artists who are using Kickstarter?

Krebs: Yes, I know a few and I've made some donations. Because it's connected to social media though, I've also discovered a bunch of my old friends who live far away are up to cool things and I've donated to them too.

Nelson: A lot of people have called Kickstarter a sort of social movement--a way to democratize the art world. Do you agree? Or do you see it simply as a convenience?

Krebs: Yes, I think that's true--especially because it's so quick and easy to make a small contribution. We have to be realistic, though, when we talk about democratization. The digital divide is very real and I think it coincides with the Art World barriers. This doesn't touch that at all--it might make it worse.

Nelson: Most importantly: How do you think Kickstarter is changing the arts community in Charlottesville?

Krebs: Yes--I think it does in several ways.

First, it creates a more participatory model of art where the community (even if it's virtual) has an ownership stake in the art.

Second, it allows people to become patrons of the arts with very small contributions. Patronage is influence and I think it will broaden artists' ideas about who is in their audience--and I think that's a very good thing. I really believe that the best thing for the arts is a larger overall pie, meaning more people involved and invested.

Third, it will be an incentive to do art that is project-based. A campaign that says "buy my art because it's great" will not work. It needs to DO something. That's a mixed blessing.

Because it's not limited by geography, artists will be able to reach outside of the local area for support within a broader non-physical community, which creates interesting possibilities.

Finally, it allows artists direct access to funding and gives them a new business model.

It gives artists alot to think about!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer on Monticello Road


The StoryLine kids visited many of our favorite neighbors, including Virginia Industries for the Blind.

We had a very full Spring on Monticello Road but we’re also having a fun summer.

Story Line
Last week, we had an amazing week with the kids of the Story|Line project. We spent a morning at Monticello; then the next day we visited Lazy Daisy, Virginia Industries for the Blind and had lunch at Mas. After a Wednesday clinic at the Bridge we brought all their experiences to fruition on the Free Expression Wall. This was the best year for Story|Line and we are deeply grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.

Learn more | Pictures

Photos at the Local
The photography exhibition has moved to its summer quarters at the Local. Twenty photos, including ten that have never been exhibited before, adorn the walls of one of our favorite restaurants. Stop by and check them out. The exhibition will remain on view through July. [More]

Community Slide Show
This coming Sunday and Monday nights (July 22-23), there will be a slide show in the storefront window next to the Local (the Beauty Shop). It will be a rotating display of about two hundred images, the faces of Monticello Road. Projected from the inside, it will fill the storefront window and be visible from the street. [Preview]

Rewards on the Way
I have received a shipment of books and if you pledged and have not received your copy (or your print) I thank you for your patience and please know that it is on its way. If you do not have one or would like to obtain, please email me (peter-at-culturecurrent{dot}com) and I’ll get it to you. Thanks to our generous backers, subsidies are available for those in need.

Thank You is always a good way to end an email or a conversation. I am deeply grateful for all your help (so far) and I am honored to be your friend and neighbor.

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Story|Line comes to Monticello Road


We met some old friends along the road from Monticello, including one that was very old indeed.

It's as if two of my favorite people just got married.

Obviously, by now you've heard all about my Monticello Road project, which uses photography to celebrate the people and place along one of America's most interesting streets.

For several years, I've also been fortunate to be involved with Story|Line, an innovative multi-partner program wherein 30 kids (ages 10-13) from the Parks and Recreation summer camp take a series of urban hikes and then make a mural about it. Story|Line uses art in much the same way as my own project--to build connections to place.

Last year's trip was all about waterways and two years ago it was change and transformation. This year, the kids visted Monticello Road and it is literally the case that the two programs fit together like hand and glove. Indeed, as I was dreaming up Monticello Road, I had Story|Line very much in mind.

On Monday, kids visited Monticello itself and hiked down the mountain along the magnificent Sauders-Monticello Trail. On Tuesday, they met some of our favorite characters along Monticello Road, including Sonny and Novella at Lazy Daisy Ceramics, Virginia Industries for the Blind, and Tomas at Mas Tapas. On Wednesday, they refined their drawing skills at the Bridge PAI in preparation for Thursday's big activity: a mural on the Free Expression Wall.

Story|Line is an amazing experience and I'm grateful to be a part of it for the third time. It's a terrific group of kids, very motivated and insightful and totally inspiring. I always feel like I'm getting back so much more than I'm putting in.

It's been extra-special this time to walk with these fabulous kids along the road from its germination to its terminus and to introduce them to friends and neighbors along the way. Their presence, their questions and their drawings lift us all up.


Story|line is a collaboration between the Piedmont Council of the Arts, the Bridge, Charlottesville Parks and Recreation, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Siteworks Studio and many, many volunteers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monticello Road at the Local


Jeff and Travis work across the street from the Local, at the heart of Monticello Road.
 

The pictures of Monticello Road are back on view, this time at the Local.

Twenty images, including ten never displayed before adorn the walls of a restaurant that is at the geographic and community heart of Monticello Road.

There will be an accompanying public art display outside. The People of Monticello Road slideshow will project on the storefront window of the neighboring building, a former beauty shop, and visible from the street. Preview highlights from the slideshow here.

The slideshow will be on display Monday July 23 from 7:30-11:00 to coincide with Local Singer/Songwriter night. The exhibition runs through the month of July.

Four photos will also be on display at McGuffey Art Center through Sunday August 19. Opening reception Friday, July 6. Copies of the 80-page project catalog are available at the gift shop there.


The Local is located at 824 Hinton Avenue, Charlottesville, VA. They are open for dinner seven days a week, until 10:00 p.m. Su, Tu, We, Th; 11 p.m. Fr, Sa, Mo. Telephone 434.984.9749.

McGuffey Art Center is located at 201 Second Street NW, open Tues-Sat 10-6, Sun 1-5.

For more information about the Monticello Road, visit www.monticelloroad.com; email peter@culturecurrent.com or call 434.465.9869.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

We're not alone

I received an unexpected email the other day. Hannah Minzloff is a Nova Scotia-based photographer  doing a project about a small section of a historic road,where she's newly transplanted.

It was a bit shocking to know that someone else is doing something so similar to what seemed like a pretty unique effort, but I shouldn’t really be surprised. Monticello Road was a response to a big need that exists in the Art World for art that is relevant to communities and a yearning in neighborhoods for the social benefits that artists are uniquely able to deliver. This is all over the world, not just me or in Charlottesville.

There’s nothing more encouraging than to look to either side and see fellows toiling alongside. I’m glad to know that I’m on to something important and its good to see others carrying the effort forward.

Here’s what she wrote:
Congratulations on succeeding with the fundraising for your wonderful project Peter. It has been amazing to hear about what you have accomplished in such a short time.


In a good way, hairs prickled on the back of my neck when I stumbled upon the Monticello Road project on Kickstarter (I was doing some research into crowdfunding) a couple of months ago. By wild coincidence I am also working on a photo-based community project along a short stretch of road in what is a relatively new community for me, in Dartmouth Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. As I read your description of Monticello Road, it felt like I was seeing my own words pouring out onto the page.


I'd like to share with you what I have been working on over the last 18 months. Portraits on Portland documents a neighbourhood in transition, celebrating the people and places along a 5-block strip of the Old Dartmouth section of Portland Street, Nova Scotia's first incorporated town. The exhibition will be presented as a series of large prints along with projections of historical images at a local gallery this September. A wall of the gallery will be given over to the community to post their thoughts, drawings etc of what then envision for the future of the area, and a number of stores on Portland will actively take part in the show by hosting their own displays of pictures and artifacts. I have been using a digital recorder to collect people's stories about the area but haven't quite decided how to present those during the exhibition. You can see a selection of the portraits and read more on the website: Portraits on Portland.


The way you reached out to engage the community through panel discussions and storytelling has inspired me to set up a panel discussion on revitalizing downtowns, and if I may I'd like to borrow your rocking chair storytelling afternoon idea.


After much research – can you believe it there are no crowdfunding organizations in Canada!– I decided to give crowdfunding a try by setting up a website and a PayPal account. I've almost reached my goal which is a real testament to the local community.


I wonder if there is an opportunity for an exhibition exchange here or for these works to intersect in some way?


thank you for the inspiration,


Hannah
All throughout this project, I have received constant voices of confidence from all quarters: sponsors, fellow artists, media, and the neighborhood itself. It’s rare in any life, including that of an artist, to be told with certainty that you are doing the right thing.

As we think about what makes us each successful and what makes a healthy community, that validation is a key ingredient. Let’s all do it for one another and do it often.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What's Next

 
Special thanks to Lulu Miller whose recordings of the Story Sharing could be the basis of the project's coolest piece, which is yet to come. 

The Monticello Road exhibition and all the events around it certainly felt like an accomplishment, but it’s important to remember that the project isn’t done yet. While it will never really be over, we do have a few specific pieces lined up for the near future.

First I’m going to huddle with Lulu to figure out what to do with the amazing audio she captured at the storytelling session. We’ll make it available to the world somehow—either as archived audio or perhaps transcripts.

The oral histories are perhaps the most exciting part of the project with the most potential. My ultimate scheme is to create a walking tour along Monticello Road with kiosks or signs along the way with links to historical or atmospheric audio available to anyone with a cell phone. We could connect with the existing downtown audio tour and perhaps the visitor’s bureau.

There will be another photo booth at Moore’s Creek Family Restaurant, and hopefully there will be an audio component to that. The only thing about the exhibition that wasn’t perfect was that no one from Moore’s Creek made it to the story sharing. As you know by now, I’m not easily discouraged and I know we’ll get it.

In July, the exhibition will travel to its summer quarters at the Local. More details on that soon, but the most exciting piece will be a neighborhood slide show on select nights that will be visible to passers by.

Soon we will begin work on the next “road” project. Sorry, but the subject matter is still secret for now.

Keep checking back for more details!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fundraising Successful

We set an ambitious goal and there were some doubters. I have to admit that in my fearful moments I was among them. But we did it! We eclipsed our $4000 target by a nose. It was a total team effort with contributions from many, many generous supporters.

Monticello Road is not finished yet. There will be more projects in the neighborhood and we'll have information about those soon.

For now, huge thanks to all of you!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Book


An eighty page catalog accompanies the exhibition. The book is hard-bound, 10"x 8", and includes more than 150 full-color photos of the people and places of Monticello Road. It's like a yearbook for the community. Leaf through it with the above widget.

While it's possible to buy the book from Blurb, it's available as a premium on the Kickstarter campaign and it's much better (and cheaper) to get it that way. I can order them in bulk, pay shipping just once, and (most importantly) leverage the campaign for grant money to fund the next project.

The book is a beautiful, lasting record of a fascinating neighborhood and the people that make it so special.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What we’ve accomplished...so far!

Asking my neighbors for help was the best thing I did. The opportunity to help one another turns out to be a gift in itself.

I set out to find an integrated role for an artist in a healthy community and I did so with very modest expectations that were simply blown away. I am amazed at what we have done as a community and what the project became. It succeeded far beyond my expectations.

Here are some of the things we accomplished together:
  • We got to know our neighbors. Strangers became familiar; familiar faces acquaintances; and acquaintances became friends.
  • Significantly many people who had never been to a gallery or seen themselves as participants in the arts came to the Bridge and did so again and again. This is a profound accomplishment.
  • We captured a library with thousands of images of people and places, creating a lasting record of a neighborhood in transition.
  • The community rallied around an exhibition of those familiar faces. An eighty page catalog preserves and expands on it like a community yearbook.
  • We gave away hundreds of prints from that library and thousands of postcards that now adorn fridges, window sills and cubicle walls.
  • We created this blog, with profiles celebrating the many of the wonderful people among us.
  • Preston and I staged four guerilla photo booths that engaged passers-by, with more to come.
  • We had a packed opening reception with locally donated beer, BBQ, nibbles and—most popularly—Spudnuts.
  • Speaking of Spudnuts, we screened a documentary that should be required viewing for all residents and we did it in a doughnut shop.
  • We toured an active and historic factory for the blind that plays a vital role in the community, yet is essentially hidden at the center of the neighborhood.
  • We convened a gathering of top community planners and learned much from them—and hopefully they learned a few things from the artists and residents in the room.
  • Three elementary school groups visited the show, with walking-tours past many of the sites where the images were captured.
  • An afternoon of rocking-chair storytelling brought long-timers and newer residents together to share reminiscences of how things were and how they have changed. Lulu recorded these oral histories so we can make them available to all.
  • A gathering of artists regrouped at the end of the exhibition to talk about our experiences and share new ways to animate our communities.
  • We attracted outrageously much media attention—more than I could keep track of. They were interested because positive stories about neighbors coming together inspire their listeners, viewers and readers.
  • We nudged several sidelined artists back into the game. I won’t name them publicly but that’s one of the bits of which I’m most proud.
  • You all inspired me and gave my own career quite a jolt.
  • Update (5/6): We had a very successful kickstarter campaign, receiving 65 contributions totaling $4,000. Perhaps more impressive than the financial amount, which exceeded most expectations, was the incredible moral support from the community and huge social-media response (165 Facebook likes).
Just reading this list is exhausting but as the exhibition draws to a close I feel exhilarated—the opposite of the usual let-down feeling. As I look toward the next project (still secret!), I know that this one is not over and never will be.

Specifically:
  • We will make available the oral histories as transcribed text and/or audio files on the web. 
  • We plan to create an audio itinerary, similar to what you find in museums. More on that soon.
  • We will make available the highlights of the image archive. Many of them are already here.
  • We will keep taking pictures, sharing our gifts with one another and keep getting to know our neighbors even better.
In the meantime, I say a big, hearty thank you to the many who have supported Monticello Road in so many ways. I could not be happier to share a community with you and to be your neighbor.

Backers

This project could not have happened many people's contributions of time, expertise and money. It's a very real display of what a community can accomplish together. There are so many to thank, I am bound to forget some, but I'll give it a shot.

Host Venue and Chief Sponsor
The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative

Promotional and Professional Support
AiA Architecture Week
City of Charlottesville Historic Resources Committee
Piedmont Council for the Arts
Virginia Industries for the Blind

Intern
Preston P Jackson

Advisory Group
Greg Antrim Kelly
Aaron Eichorst
Maggie Guggenheimer
Sarah Lawson
Jon Lohman
Ross McDermott
Lulu Miller
Pete O'Shea
Dan Zimmerman

Technical Assistance
Meredith Cole
Rob Douglas
Lulu Miller
Kristin Rourke

Panelists and Guest Speakers
Fanella Belle
Rosie Breeden
Preston Coyner
Maurice Cox
Mark Edwards
Aaron Eichorst
Kathy Galvin
Allison Hirsch
Lance Hosey
Greg Kelly
Sonny Mawyer
Mary Michaud
Pete O'Shea
John Trippel

Financial Contributors

Neighborly Hollers
Joanna Boone
Dr. Evelyn Edson

Neighborly Hellos
Elaine and Reid Bailey
Tomas Rahal

Double Waves
Pamela Cederquist
Clay Fitness
Christina Latouf
Wendy Philleo and Tim House
Dan Walsh

Neighborly Waves
Alloy Workshop
Douglas Bade
Elise Burroughs and Eric Cole
Mark Edwards and Mary Michaud
Jen Dalton and Wellington Fan
Rob Douglas
Aaron Eichorst
Randall Harris
Amy Hill
Jen Hochrein
Michaux Hood
Paul Johnson
Sarah Lawson
Guian McKee
The Munros
Pete O'Shea and Sara Wilson
Liz Robbins
Margo Smith
Pierre Verdier
Marla Ziegler

Winks
Renee Balfour
Meg Crook
Eileen French
Jackie Fugere
Maggie Guggenheimer
Amelia H
Chloe Hawkins
Bill and Renate Hinkley
Jonathan Krebs and Genevieve Diamond
David Marshall
Dr. Barbara Watkinson
Brian Wimer

Smiles
Greg Antrim Kelly
Christina Ball
Joel Bass
Fenella Belle
Paul Beyer
Daph
Sigrid Eilertson
Jennifer Elmore
Stacey Evans
Whitney French
Julia Hauser
Madeleine Hawkes
Billy Hunt
Jason
Anki King
Bree Luck
Lindsey Mears
Lizzy Miles
Hannah Minzloff
Laura Parsons
Andrea Pitzer and Dan Vergano
Suzy Q
Andrea Retzky
Ross
Joe Swift
Holly Tidmore
John and Melissa Wales
James Wilamor

In-Kind Contributions
A Pimento
Beer Run
Belmont Barbeque
Crutchfield Corporation
The Farm

La Taza
The Local
Love Canon
Mas Tapas

Spudnuts

Most Especially

Thank you to my family and the wonderful people of Monticello Road.

 Update: Although the KickStarter campaign has come to a successful close, it is still possible to make financial contributions--and people are doing so on a regular basis, which is great. Contact us to arrange a private contribution.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Media Attention

Rachel Ryan from NewsPlex stopped by the Spudnuts Photo Booth.

We've received some really wonderful attention from the local media. The reason is really quite simple.

This is a project that brings folks together and that is what people need right now. This stuff is not about me--it is about the community, what we can do and what we can all be when we celebrate each other as we should.

Here are some highlights so far:

'Monticello Road' exhibit explores neighborhood
(Charlottesville Daily Progress)

The Spark (WMRA--audio)

The Artist's Role (WVTF--audio)

Newsplex  (ABC/CBS/Fox): Photo Booth
Newsplex: Covered Opening
Newsplex: Storysharing

NBC29:Preview
NBC29: Covered Opening
NBC29: Previewed Planning Panel
NBC29: Previewed Story Sharing
NBC29: Storyline Project Draws on Freedom of Speech Wall

Charlottesville Tomorrow: Community Planning Discussion

Artist Talk at the Bridge PAI (Piedmont Council for the Arts Blog)
Story Sharing at the Bridge (Piedmont Council for the Arts Blog)
Monticello Road Project Draws to a Close (Piedmont Council for the Arts Blog)

The StoryLine Project Fosters Creative Connections (C-ville Weekly)

Does crowdfunding site Kickstarter's model hold up? (C-ville Weekly) [Full Interview]

iCreate (Earless Rabbit): Cool short documentary


Forthcoming:

Earless Rabbit documentary

Whew!! It's almost more than I can keep track of.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Discussion: the Artist's Role in a Community


John Trippel is one of several artists who will add his perspectives to the round-room discussion that will double as my artist's talk.

My Monticello Road community series concludes this Thursday from 7-9 pm with an informal artists’ discussion at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative.

I undertook this project in an effort to discover how an artist can be an active contributor to the daily life of a healthy community and be a known entity the way a butcher, baker, or mechanic is. It turns out that artists can do a lot and their unique contributions are both welcome and needed. I will discuss that process of discovery and some of the lessons I have learned.

But mine is not the only way. Charlottesville is full of artists working directly in communities in a variety of capacities and I’ve invited a few of my colleagues to add their perspectives to the discussion.

Key invitees include:
Please come and bring your own views. All are welcome to join this wide-ranging round-room discussion. Your perspectives will be welcome.

All Monticello Road events are free and open to the public. The Bridge is located at 209 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902. [map | donate]

Monticello Road is a month-long celebration through photography and community events at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative. The exhibition runs through April 27. For a full schedule and more information, please visit www.monticelloroad.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Story Sharing and Oral Histories Event

The Bridge becomes the neighborhood's front porch this Sunday. Bring your own rocking chair.

On Sunday, April 22, from 1-4 pm, the Bridge PAI is hosting an afternoon of story sharing and oral histories. As part of my Monticello Road project, we've invited a colorful group of neighborhood characters and long-timers to recount stories and spin yarns.

People with interesting stories will gravitate there but here are a few of the people who are definitely coming:
  • My neighbor Rosie who has lived on the street for 50+ years

  • Sonny, proprietor of Lazy Daisy and long-time resident/stakeholder
  • "Doc" Frazier, race car driver and master-spinner of tall-tales
  • Peggy, long-timer at the Blind Shops, whose grandmother lived on the road
It's not only for people who have lived here (or anywhere) for a long time: anyone with interesting perspectives, or who wants to hear them, is welcome.

It will be an after-church-style pot-luck so please feel free to bring banana bread, and other sharable nibbles.

All Monticello Road events are free and open to the public. The Bridge is located at 209 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902. [map | donate]

Monticello Road is a month-long celebration through photography and community events at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative. The exhibition runs through April 27. For a full schedule and more information, please visit www.monticelloroad.com.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Creative Community Planning

 
Monticello Road is a fascinating combination of planning, organic historic development and spontaneous citizen intervention.

The Monticello Road community series continues on Tuesday, April 17, from 7-9 p.m. with a panel discussion on community and neighborhood planning. The event, which is part of AIA Architecture Week, is hosted by the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative.

Lance Hosey (GreenBlue) will moderate a panel including Maurice Cox (former mayor, NEA director of design, currently at UVA Architecture School), Kathy Galvin (architect and City Council), Alison Hirsch (UVA School of Architecture), and Pete O'Shea (Siteworks Studio).

We will discuss ways that community planning can be proactive, inclusive and yield excellent results.

Specific topics will include:
  • What historical processes aligned to make this place unique?
  • How can planners seek out meaningful input from communities?
  • What alternative strategies exist to assure both inclusiveness and excellence?
  • How to bring in traditionally excluded voices?
  • How to listen to vested stakeholders and truly address their concerns without them highjacking the process?
Charlottesville and Belmont in particular abound with urbanist case studies and we are quite sure it will be a lively discussion.

All Monticello Road events are free and open to the public. The Bridge is located at 209 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902. [map | donate]

Monday, April 2, 2012

How You Can Help



We had a successful KickStarter campaign during in April 2012. We raised $4000, which funded the exhibitions, gift prints for all the subjects, several receptions and community events. Big thanks to all of those backers!

The project goes on and those funds ran out a long time ago. While our needs are modest, we are still accruing expenses and need to continually ask for help. It is still possible to make financial contributions--and people are doing so on a regular basis, which is great. Contact us to arrange a donation.


Financial Donations
Monticello Road is a break-even project meaning that while we may not be paid for the considerable time that goes into it, we do raise funds to cover costs. For example, the photo booths cost a couple of hundred dollars to produce, but anyone who walks up can get a free print. We currently have about $500 of budgeted costs that need to be covered by donations. [Contact]

Buy the Book
The Monticello Road book captures the spirit of the project. It is 80 pages, full of images of the people and places that make it such a special place. Signed by the artist. You can preview it on the web but it's best (cheaper) to buy directly from me. It'a a great gift and a good way to remember the neighborhood or to share it with friends. Like everything in the project, it is pay-what-you can ($50 min | $75 recommended) [Preview | Contact]

Intern Needed
This project is very labor intensive but also very fun. In particular, the photo booths and oral histories both require logging, transcription, editing and, of course, field engagement. If you like art and/or people and have decent computer skills, this is a great way to be involved with a succesful community art project. [Contact]

In-Kind Contributions
Many people have contributed time, expertise, and even food and drink. It is a fun, social project that involves talking to our neighbors. If you have a special skill or would like to bring food to one of our events, please contact me: we need all the help we can get. [Contact]

Tell/Bring a Friend
This project is bringing new people into the arts, but sometimes those folks need encouragement or even a ride. Tell your neighbors about the events and bring them along—especially if they don’t usually go to art shows.

Walk the Road
The very most important thing you can do to make this project successful is to internalize its lessons and take them out into the world. Talk to your neighbors, smile at them and encourage them to share what they have to say. By encouraging others to do the same, our efforts will have a multiplier effect and bring about some real positive change.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Monticello Road: Gateless Community

 
I'm not naive: I've lived in some very divided communities and Charlottesville is far from perfect, but there is an engagement here--a real effort to work it out.

I just read a terrific op-ed piece in the New York Times about gated communities and what they do to our ability to trust one another and the tragic effects that can bring. Right away I was reminded why this project is so important.

Basically, the column says that in their fear of outsiders (and the question of who is really an outsider is impossibly twisted), people in gated communities sequester themselves ever more radically in a feedback loop of paranoia. By putting themselves in a place where they only see members of their own tribe, outsiders seem more and more terrifying--and the world is full of outsiders, isn't it?

Monticello Road is the opposite of a gated community (though it has not always been thus and who knows what the future will bring).  I'm not sure how it got this way--that will be a question for our Community Planning panel--but it is a zone where folks do interact in a way that is civil and often much better than that.

My front yard has a fence (the previous owners had dogs) but we tore down the gate and kids in the playground across the street often use our bathroom. Out on the street, you're likely to run into someone dressed like the Elvis or to meet a man named James Brown who is not the king of soul but the city Sheriff and an active parent. Folks of all ages and many ethnicities intermingle and the results are not always pretty but we are all engaged in working it out.

No one but Jesus asks us to absolutely love everyone we meet but there needs to be respect and acceptance: two sides of the same coin. And there's quite a bit of love as well, a currency that is built by sharing--not by burying it in the backyard. This project is about overcoming obstacles and sharing social capital.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The People of Monticello Road: Mas

If Clark is where you find the brains of Monticello Road, its palate is at Mas.

I had wanted to photograph there for some time, and had sent postcards and emails but I was too shy to ask directly. Eventually, it was getting silly: Mas had to be in the project because they are a very major piece of the neighborhood and the project would lack legitimacy without them.

So I plucked up some courage, went in and asked. It turns out that Tomas is surprisingly shy too for one so accomplished and he didn’t want the camera probing around, which is not an uncommon or unreasonable position. I told him I understood and sought the sympathy of a glass of Rioja at the bar, which he offered.

When I stopped on the way out to thank Tomas for the wine he said, “You know, there might be a way,” and invited me to Mas’ ninth anniversary party.

It turned out to be full of neighborhood movers-and-shakers and global foodies. I met writers, dentists, actors, chefs, architects, filmmakers and I got to know the staff a little bit—a hard-working and spirited bunch.

Not only is the place usually full of great food and interesting people, but there is an atmosphere of love and generosity that originates with the owner himself. Mas is as much about heart as it is about eating and drinking.

Going there was the perfect way to complete photography for the book (although there will always be more to add) and to move on to the next stage of the project.


 Mas Tapas is located at 501 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, VA, open monday–saturday 5:30pm  until 1am (no reservations). For more info, please call 434–979–0990.

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 opening April 6. [Details]
 
More Profiles | Project Description | More Photos: Places | People | Photo Booth I | Photo Booth II | Photo Booth III

Monday, March 5, 2012

The People of Monticello Road: Michael the Mystery Man

Michael stopped by our second photo booth but he took off before we could get his name.

I wanted to include his photo in the book--how could I not? So we had to track him down to get his name for the caption and the search turned out to be quite illustrative.

I started by talking to local merchants and showing his picture around.

"Oh yeah--I know that guy," was a common response. "I don't know his name but I see him every day."

I put up signs that read, "Do you know this man?" without response.

Last Friday night during open studio hours at McGuffey, as people  looked at the "Faces of Monticello Road" wall of my studio, I received a vital clue.

Some folks from the neighborhood remarked that the plastic bag he always carries is from Kroger, and that he must walk to work there every day.

[Quick aside: It should be noted that Kroger is three or more miles from Belmont and his daily six-mile rain-or-shine round-trip hike is a seriously manly commitment to job, environment, fitness or whatever his reason.]

I went to Kroger the next day and asked the manager if he works there and right away, they said he does, provided an identification, and confirmed the hypothesis.

Problem solved through collective deduction. This project has shown me that the answers to many questions lay hidden (and sometimes in pieces) within a community. Persistent engagement is the key to putting them together.



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 opening April 6. [Details]
 
More Profiles | Project Description | More Photos: Places | People | Photo Booth I | Photo Booth II | Photo Booth III

Friday, February 24, 2012

The People of Monticello Road: Clark Elementary School

Clark teachers serve up some soulful goodness at the 2011 Soul Feast.

With about 250 students and dozens of faculty and staff, it would be impossible to say anything definitive about Clark in a blog post. One can, however, convey a sense or impression, from one parent’s—and neighbor’s—perspective.

Two days ago, I rode the big yellow school bus to Richmond with Clark’s second-grade Quest group to see the mummy exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. We were five adults with just twelve kids and it was an unbelievable learning experience.

The previous school day (which was a Friday) had the evening Soul Feast—a community celebration of African American heritage through art, singing, chicken, black-eyed peas, and someone’s grandmas’ apple cobbler.

Not every day is a party at Clark, but these two events are very typical in this way: it feels like a family, small and loving with tons of attention lavished on the children. Everyone knows each other and the children have tons of interaction with adults and specialists of many kinds.

In the morning, Sebastian is like a rubber band and he launches himself off to school. He eats breakfast at home, then runs to get school in time for a second breakfast there because he enjoys the fellowship. In the afternoon he bursts out and we play on the playground for a while.

Many adults who live in the neighborhood attended Clark, and some of them work there. With its stately building—perhaps the finest in the system, its high hilltop site and doors open to the community, Clark is the visual heart of the neighborhood. With so many eager learners and their instructors, it could also be said that it’s where the brains are.



Clark Elementary is located at 1000 Belmont Avenue, at the corner of Monticello Road in Charlottesville VA.

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.
 
More Profiles | Project Description | More Photos: Places | People | Photo Booth I | Photo Booth II

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Exhibition Information and Community Events


Exhibition and events center (mostly) around the Bridge PAI, at the intersection of Monticello Road and Avon Street.

2014

Sunday, April13
Block Party: Tom Tom Fest / Belmont Bash
All Day, Downtown Belmont
Claim the street for new uses. Celebrate with your neighbors and visitors from around Charlottesville. Enjoy an unbeatable Virginia Spring afternoon.

2013

Sunday, April 14Tom Tom Block Party
2:00 - 9:00 p.m., The Bridge PAI
Recap | Photos | Preview

2012

Exhibition & Community Events

Photographer Peter Krebs spent two years documenting the people and places along this one-mile length of Monticello Road from Moore's Creek to the Belmont Bridge. A neighborhood resident, Peter revisited the sites repeatedly and in different seasons and compiled a comprehensive body of images. He talked his way into residences and businesses, set up informal photo booths and even engaged with strangers on the street. His images witness lives unfolding and the everyday magnificence he discovered is easily apparent in the pictures.

The exhibition, which runs from April 6-27, includes some three dozen prints as well as a slide show with hundreds of faces from Monticello Road. An 80-page catalog accompanies the exhibition.

Community Events

This exhibition is truly a neighborhood celebration and will be about much more than just pictures on the wall. It will be enlivened by a series of events that provide opportunities to know the neighborhood and its people in new ways.

The exhibition and most events (unless otherwise noted) take place at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative 209 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902. 434-984-5669. The Bridge is open Tuesday to Saturday noon to 3:00 p.m. and during special events. Admission is free and the public is always welcome.

Friday, April 6
Opening Reception
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. The Bridge PAI
Bring your friends, put on a name tag and meet the people of Monticello Road. [photos]

Saturday, April 7
Film Screening: Still Life with Donuts
9:00 a.m. – noon. Filmmakers’ Q and A 11:00a.m. Spudnuts (309 Avon Street)
This documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in Belmont. The film will repeat throughout the morning and filmmakers Mark Edwards and Mary Michaud will answer questions at 11:00.

Thursday, April 12
Open House: Virginia Industries for the Blind
Tours 9:00 – 11:00 a.m and 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.  1102 Monticello Road
You might be surprised to learn that this quiet-looking place is making beds for the Navy. You’ll also meet some of the nicest and most interesting people there. Refreshments will be served. For more information please call William Vaughn (434-295-5168)

Monday, April 16 - Wednesday, 18
Clark School
Second-Grade Art Class Field Trip Visits

The Bridge PAI

Tuesday, April 17
Panel: Neighborhood/Community Planning
In cooperation with AIA Architecture Week
7:00 pm – 9:00 p.m. The Bridge PAI
A who’s-who of architecture and planning will discuss what makes this place so special and explore new models for community development. [story]

Sunday, April 22
Story Sharing and Oral Histories
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. The Bridge PAI
You’ve seen some of the faces, now come hear their stories. We’re bringing long-time residents, transplants, and people with interesting perspectives for what is sure to be a rich and lively conversation. Food and beverages will be served. [photos]

Thursday, April 26
Artist’s Talk with Special Guests
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The Bridge PAI
Peter will discuss his work and what he’s learned about the artist’s unique role in a healthy community. He will be joined by other artists who actively engage the community in different ways. Confirmed guests include Aaron Eichorst, John Trippel, Greg Antrim Kelley, and others.

Friday, April 27 Saturday, April 28
Bridge Exhibition Closes

Saturday April 28 (tentative)
Hangover Brunch
10:00 a.m. Moore’s Creek Family Restaurant (1710 Monticello Road)
Join us for a huge breakfast at the tall-tale-spinning headquarters of Monticello Road.

July 1- August 1
Exhibition at the Local (824 Hinton Avenue)
Twenty images, including ten never displayed before adorn the walls of a restaurant that is at the geographic and community heart of Monticello Road. [details]

July 9 - 12
StoryLine Walks
The annual Storyline Project guides rising 4th-6th graders through unique walking expeditions that culminate in a collaborative mural design. This year, the Storyline Project explored the people and places of Charlottesville through the theme of “Monticello Road: Portraits of the People.”
[info | photos]

Saturday, July 21 - Monday, July 23
Public Slide Show: the People of Monticello Road
6:00 p.m. - 12:00 p.m. (Jean's Beauty Salon, next to the Local)
Projected from the inside, this rotating display of images of the faces of Monticello Road will fill the storefront window and be visible from the street. [Preview]

September 7-28 (Reception Sept 7, 5-7 p.m.)
StoryLine Exhibition
CitySpace (100 5th Street NE)
Piedmont Council for the Arts is proud to present an exhibit of photos, drawings, and video from the 2012 Storyline Project, a hands-on project for youth in the Charlottesville Parks & Recreation summer camp.

Sunday, September 30
Where We Live: Belmont
3:00 - 5:00 p. m. C'Ville Coffee (1301 Harris Street)
Where we Live—Stories from Yesterday and Today discussion series focuses on a different neighborhood every month and this month they’ve chosen Belmont. Come share your stories and recollections or just come listen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The People of Monticello Road: Sonny at Lazy Daisy


At Lazy Daisy, customers decorate ceramic objects, which are then glazed and high-fired. Birthday parties are a big part of their business.

On the day we received the keys to our house, I went for a walk around the neighborhood and I soon came across Lazy Daisy Ceramics shop. I knew right then that we had made a good choice. Years later, as I re-explored in greater depth for my project, Lazy Daisy was one of my first stops. With a name like that, they must be friendly, right?

It turns out that they’re some of the nicest people around. During that first visit, more than a year ago, I was brave enough to ask to photograph the shop and its wares—which they enthusiastically permitted—but I did not ask the owners and customers if I could do their portraits—which is what I really wanted. They have many beautiful things there and I got some pretty good pictures. Since that time, the project has changed and I acquired the boldness that was lacking before. It was time to go back.

I scheduled a visit with the manager (her name is Tara) but she advised me to come at a time when her parents would be around. The next day, I was hanging out with Sonny Mawyer, the establishment’s long-time proprietor and a gold mine of neighborhood lore.

Sonny has seen a lot along Monticello Road these past 35+ years and he knows something about pretty much every property along the way—and many of the people as well. When I mentioned to my neighbor (the one with a broom from the Blind Shop) that Sonny would be at our April 15 story-sharing event, that sealed the deal for her—she would go too.

It’s really no wonder Sonny and his wife Novella have such a beloved reputation. They're friendly and generous and they run a business that helps children make beautiful things on their birthdays. What a perfect way to follow my visit to Spudnuts: another locally-owned business, run by family members who are very invested in their community and who sell small embodiments of love.

It will be very interesting to hear some of the stories Sonny has to share—he told me quite a few during the hour I spent with him. He said he would bring his friends and it looks like they will be many of both—stories and friends.


Lazy Daisy is located at 1709 Monticello Road, Charlottesville VA.

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.
 
More Profiles | Project Description | More Photos: Places | People | Photo Booth I | Photo Booth II

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The People of Monticello Road: Spudnuts

Lori's behind the counter every day of business.

One of the risks of traveling Monticello Road by any mode is that it is very difficult to get past Spudnuts without stopping in for one of their golden delights. The place is strategically sited; right on the way into town and it casts an aroma that beckons like a siren’s song. Their under-a-dollar treats always live up to expectation.

I’ve always known there was something special about the place—even way back in the eighties when I first started coming here—and it’s apparent from the outside. With the ring of the bell as you walk in door, the sense becomes unmistakable.

The yumminess of the doughnuts and the allure of the place derive from much more than the sum of the somewhat unconventional ingredients. As I spend time with Lori and her family (who are always there) it has become clear that their personalities are what makes the place so special. It pervades everything about the place: the d├ęcor, the arrangement of the tables, and the food itself.

The room nearly bursts with a combination of love and integrity. It’s honest, modest, reliable, a little bit quirky and it feels like home. These adjectives also describe the product and the people on both sides of the counter—staff and customers. They’re making the world better simply by being in it, working hard and putting out a lot of love.

Lori said of my project, “People like it because it’s a positive thing that brings people together in a difficult time. They can see that you’re sacrificing and putting a lot into it and they respect that.” Those words actually describe her own enterprise quite well and it explains why we all love the place so much.

Spudnuts is a treasure and has been for generations. They are a very good example of what makes a community work and a place special.

Spudnuts Photo Booth

Excellent Documentary: Still Life with Donuts


Spudnuts is located at the corner of Avon and Monticello Road, Charlottesville VA.

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.

 
More Profiles | Project Description | More Photos: Places | People | Photo Booth I | Photo Booth II

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Artists of Belmont


Clark Elementary School, Spring 2011.

Three photos from my Monticello Road series are included in the Artists of Belmont exhibition at Firefish Gallery, located at 108 2nd Street SW in Charlottesville. This is the first taste of the much, much larger presentation at the Bridge in April.

There will be a reception Thursday January 19  7:00-10:00 pm. The exhibition will continue until March 1st.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The People of Monticello Road: Virginia Industries for the Blind

Kitten at Virginia Industries for the Blind.

Monticello Road is a quiet place, mostly residential with a few neighborhood businesses mixed in. It might come as a surprise that one enterprise is shipping beds, safety vests and more around the world. Virginia Industries for the Blind’s Charlottesville facility, known to old-timers as “the blind shops,” is a neighborhood fixture. That’s where my neighbor Alma got her mop and yours might have been assembled there too.

It would be impossible to guess the scale of their operation from the building’s quiet exterior and very occasional truck traffic. Although the facade is just three stories tall, the site's strong front-to-rear slope nearly doubles the building's height to the rear. It’s also one of the oldest buildings on the street, a fact that is hidden under the whitewash that accompanied its turn-of-the-millennium renovation. It’s of an age with the obviously historic Clark School across the street, but its look is somehow contemporary.


The interior is a spotless (after all, mops are made there!) and highly-efficient workspace. Areas are divided by function: sewing, packing, etc, all operated by a rotating staff that is extremely convivial. One might expect so many moving parts—bailers, presses, sewing machines—to present considerable dangers to the visually impaired. While some of the machines are retrofitted with additional safety measures, my perception is that the workers’ greatest protection is their training and familiarity.

William, Robin, Ronnie and Raymond in one of the sewing rooms.

In fact, as I walked around, I kept forgetting that the people around me were blind and I had a hilarious reminder when I was asking William (their marketing chief and my guide) about the exquisite views from the building’s high windows, and whether Monticello could be discerned in the distance.

“You’re asking the wrong person,” was his deadpan response.

It was pretty much the only question he couldn’t answer and it wasn’t only William who was friendly. Almost everyone there was enthusiastic and wanted to learn more about—and take part in—the project. It will be interesting to hear their stories, as some of them have been there a very long time.

That will be the purpose of a return visit, hopefully soon.