For many, 2021 became the year everything went from “this is crazy and unprecedented” to a grudging acceptance of “this is the new normal.” For The Bridge, it was our time to boldly step into the reality that we’re able to reach beyond our Belmont gallery—living into the promise that a town and region can become more vibrant and loving through the arts.
While our Gallery has stood as a steadfast fixture of Charlottesville’s culture, hosting thousands of programs over 17 years, we’ve always been more than just an art gallery. We’re all about how radical imagination can help us learn more about ourselves, each other, and our world. This means finding new ways to connect cultural opportunities with more and more people. Of course, we can’t talk about public art in Charlottesville without mentioning the Community Chalkboard! Upon unanimous approval from City Council, The Bridge became the owners and caretakers of the renowned landmark that has stood in front of City Hall for 15 years. This summer, we invited a coalition of great organizations to join us in rededicating the Community Chalkboard with an action-packed week of programming—honoring the next generation of artists and thinkers expressing the ideas shaping a better future. Keep an eye out for exciting performances, chalk murals, film screenings, and more into next year and beyond!
Buford Middle School students on a mural field trip
Building upon years of powerful public art-making, we leaned into partnerships with schools, government, and nonprofit partners to get art out to the people! We’ve created dozens of new murals and publicized an interactive walk/bike tour of the city’s public art. We helped launch Federico Cuatlacuatl’s Rasquache Mobile Cinema (tricycle powered theater-in-a-box) which has popped up all over town showcasing outdoor films by Black, Indigenous, and artists of color. By year’s end, The Bridge will have facilitated an investment of an estimated $96,000 into the hands of artists through residencies, murals, and commissions. Our public art efforts have been affirmed by the National Endowment for the Arts, and we continue to share what we learn with communities throughout Virginia.
Boys & Girls Clubs Students painting a climate justice mural during a summer-long climate awareness camp
The other huge story this year has been our expanded coalition-building efforts with great organizations in our city. The Bridge is committed to fostering the growth of new ideas, and we’re pleased to join our light with others doing important work. We’ve been busy finding ways to provide logistical support to people and organizations with big ideas. This way, we can handle some of the behind-the-scenes dirty work and facilitate increased cooperation among different projects. In addition to facilitating Cville’s chapter of CreativeMornings (international lecture series) and Playground of Empathy (creativity as catalysts for empathy), The Bridge welcomed Visible Records artist-run art studio and the Feminist Union of Charlottesville Creatives. These projects join a dynamic cohort of programs including the Mural Project, residency programs, smART KIDS Youth Creative Discovery, and our Culture Lab incubator. We’re proud of how we’ve adjusted to provide for needs within our creative community. Perhaps it’s less visibly stunning than a mural, but in our pragmatic hearts, we know it is not any less important to provide these kinds of support for the cultural health of our city.
In addition to all this, we’re celebrating being able to; join New City Arts in granting $50,000 directly to vulnerable artists, create a mini-museum celebrating the resiliency of artists during the pandemic with WTJU and UVA Arts, host a climate justice themed mural camp with Community Climate Collaborative and Boys & Girls Clubs, launch an international portrait exchange with our Sister Cities, and SO MUCH MORE.
Members of Feminist Union of Cville Creatives making a chalk mural during Community Chalkboard Rededication Week
Make your contribution now! And if membership is more your speed, we invite you to pledge monthly support and enter our model of shared responsibility, mutual aid, and our ceaseless push to democratize art. Remember, membership also makes a great gift! If this is “the new normal,” then we can hope you can make this kind of caring and giving part of your ritual.
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