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.

About | Summary | Events | Media | Backers | Contact/Sign Up | Donate

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.