Cavalier Daily: Gems of Charlottesville’s Art Scene

Theater troupes, concert venues that might — but shouldn’t — fly under the radar


Located in sight of Emancipation Park, The Garage is exactly what it sounds like — a tiny, brick-walled room that can fit one car, or one moderately-sized musical act.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily


With the stressful combination of starting classes, adjusting to dormitory life and learning to love — or at least stomach — dining hall food, it’s easy for a first-year to forget that the University exists within the city of Charlottesville. And what a city — particularly for the arts! Whether it’s a tiny theater company tucked away on Allied Street or a cozy little concert venue hidden downtown, Charlottesville has a plethora of arts-related destinations ideal for any age. This list aims to highlight a few, and to propose the radical idea that a city exists outside of this school — and it’s a city that deserves every student’s attention.The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative

The Bridge PAI’s mission is simple — “To bridge diverse communities through the arts.” Any actual description of the organization proves more complicated. The Bridge PAI seeks to be a one-size-fits-all arts destination for Charlottesville creative types and does a pretty good job of it,  hosting everything from art galleries to open mic nights to performances from jazz quartets. They also head ongoing artistic projects like the experimental Telemetry Music Series, often featuring student musicians, and the meditative Deep Listening. Located on Monticello Road, a short walk from the Downtown Mall, the Bridge PAI promises a unique experience for each of its patrons — unique in part because their artistic focus can change daily.

Independent bookstores

There’s not much to say here besides, “Go to these bookstores!” The city boasts five of them, and they’re all excellent. It would take many more words than the ones written here to do the shops justice — 3,382 words, to be exact — but suffice it to say that these bookstores are worthy of any student’s time. Plus, these are great places to find old textbooks at drastically reduced prices!

Independent record stores

In the same vein as the bookstores, Charlottesville is home to some excellent independent music stores. Sidetracks and Melody Supreme are the heavy hitters in this category, both in the Downtown area and both with an impressive collection of vinyl new and old. Again, it’s an experience that must be had in person.

The Garage

Located in sight of Emancipation Park, The Garage is exactly what it sounds like — a tiny, brick-walled room that can fit one car, or one moderately-sized musical act. Though small, this venue is worthy of mention just because of its homey, comfortable location. Patrons — of which there are many — can watch performers from a grassy hill directly opposite The Garage. The venue is primarily known for its eclectic array of musical acts but is also home to other arts-related events — including, but not limited to bird-drawing workshops, miniature galleries and readings of classic plays.

Gorilla Theater

Among the glut of theater troupes and productions in Charlottesville, it can be difficult to make a particular voice heard. Gorilla Theater’s voice is still on the rise — but it is continuing to grow. Founded in 2011, the company has a modest black-box location on Allied Street where they put on shows in an intimate setting — most recently, a production of Dennis Lehane’s “Coronado.” They are truly a theater company for the people, with a mission statement stating their commitment to “socially relevant work, diverse casting, and LGBTQ+ safety and inclusion for all of our theater artists,” along with outreach programs which incorporate student actors working with professionals.

This is not by any means a comprehensive list. More than anything, it should be a sufficient jumping-off point to find more arts oddities of Charlottesville — weird little corners of the city with artists, some struggling, some thriving, who would all appreciate interaction with the student community.