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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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.

  • 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.


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

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

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

Greg Antrim Kelly
Christina Ball
Joel Bass
Fenella Belle
Paul Beyer
Sigrid Eilertson
Jennifer Elmore
Stacey Evans
Whitney French
Julia Hauser
Madeleine Hawkes
Billy Hunt
Anki King
Bree Luck
Lindsey Mears
Lizzy Miles
Hannah Minzloff
Laura Parsons
Andrea Pitzer and Dan Vergano
Suzy Q
Andrea Retzky
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


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: 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


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.