Play The City: The Art of Finding Charlottesville’s Common Threads

In 2013, the City of Charlottesville led a visioning process for the Strategic Investment Area (SIA) to catalyze public and private transformation of 300 acres south of the downtown business district. Situated along a topographic low point between the Downtown, Belmont, and Ridge Street neighborhoods, the site has been in transition since the 1970s when urban renewal initiatives demolished working class housing and light industry, replacing them with housing projects and superblocks. While completion of the recent SIA plan has brought new vision to the area, the reality of the project is yet to be determined. Memories of urban renewal projects continue to shape discussions. Play The City aspires to change the nature of these discussions through community engagement and public participation, focusing on the cultural landscape of the neighborhood and drawing on the cross-disciplinary strengths of citizens, artists, designers, and planners.

The Play The City project is the primary step in bringing the community into this conversation. This public/private partnership will define a new collaborative, community engagement model that will use the arts to create a platform for community dialogue to discuss what is happening both to and in this area. Play the City will pair artists and residents to use art and design as a means for making present the vibrancy and knowledge of the neighborhood, magnifying the skills of area residents, and allowing residents to play a larger role in future development. The project will activate the neighborhood as the site of a community-wide initiative to foster a greater understanding of the cultural, environmental, and social importance of the area. In turn, it will provide a foundation for innovative arts-related collaborations that will energize the area through art installations, performances, and tactical urbanism to define a new future and identity for the neighborhood. As a creative placemaking process and opportunity for deep reflection, Play The City will encourage adults and children alike to experiment with their preconceptions of the City and use the arts for self expression.

See the project website at