In 2006, on brief visit to Charlottesville, I was enjoying a subdued, sleepy downtown when I came across a flyer announcing a special performance that was to take place in an old industrial building with a name that I couldn’t pronounce. Not knowing the city very well, but always attracted to the decay of old factories, my curiosity was piqued. The piece of paper promised an evening of oddities and experiences, flights of fancy, and fire sculpted in the air. It was a spectacle not to be missed and I sought it out.
Coming late to the party, tickets were sold out and lines were long, yet I held out and was rewarded by a kind gatekeeper willing to let everyone in. What I found was an extravaganza of performance and play taking place in the derelict building. This was the Charlottesville Wunderkammer, an important example of Charlottesville’s creativity bring a dying space back to life. While I came upon it as happenstance, it was an initiation into the possibilities and talents of those that reside in this city.
Fast forward to 2013. As a new resident of this city and director at The Bridge, I am thinking back on this experience. Who were the organizers? Where is the factory? These are questions that I immediately wanted to answer. As I explored, I came to find that the building was gone and the artists were diligently working away in their studios. Some had left for new opportunities elsewhere. Others remained focused on living in Charlottesville. In all this, I wondered where the energy had gone and what could be done to support it. This is the exact reason, The Bridge has developed the Public Artist program, our annual artist-in-residence. It is an opportunity to make a significant investment in projects of this caliber, providing professional opportunities for artists. In doing so, The Bridge can help to create a robust cultural infrastructure for Charlottesville that allows for creative innovation.
Projects like the Charlottesville Wunderkammer are works of a cohesive artistic community. They are only possible when individuals come out of their solitary studios to create together. Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell was only one of many people that made Wunderkammer a success. Yet with her 2015/2016 Public Artist residency, she is focused on creating a project that once again activates the theatrical, performance, and artistic community of Charlottesville as a whole. NO WAKE is an opportunity to once again come together and create a project as a community.
This is what excites me as an individual, an artist, and as Director of The Bridge. Art should have a ripple effect, no matter if it is cultural, social, or even economic. Over the next year we are looking forward to working with Jennifer, and a host of other artists, to show how the arts impact Charlottesville.
Matthew Slaats – Executive Director of The Bridge