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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, 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.

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