Castles made of sand


It’s a quarter past 6am on February 2, and Curtain Calls is sitting inside a nearly empty John Paul Jones Arena, watching pairs of dump trucks empty their beds across the venue’s floor.

The trucks roll into the arena in pairs, move to the center and, in a graceless, clanging motion, dump a few thousand pounds of sand onto the floor where, less than 10 hours ago, the UVA women’s basketball squad trounced North Carolina. In eight more hours, the space will look like Cocoa Beach, an 85′ by 60′ indoor beach volleyball court made up of more than 200 tons of sand for the Association of Volleyball Professionals’ “Hot Winter Nights” tour.
Don’t ask CC what the point of coming here was, because he isn’t quite sure—something about scale, how it’s neat to walk into a dark, empty cavern and see some huge, basic material being shaped into something new. Within a 10-day span (starting with the February 16 Blue Man Group performance), JPJ will host two basketball games, three blue mimes, the pop-metal quartet Van Halen and kick off a five-night stand by Cirque du Soleil. Two more trucks roll in and spill their sandy guts onto the floor, then drive forward, scraping the doors of their beds across the sand, leaving perfectly smooth, blank mounds, ready to be pocked by feet and knees.

Salt shaker

“They look like coffins,” says photographer Ross McDermott, and from his position in Second Street Gallery, Curt is inclined to agree. There are 10 orderly piles of salt on the floor of the gallery, each bearing a small white bowl filled with some substance—water, match heads—and a face rendered in earth in delicate lines across the surface of the salt.

From Young to old: Salt-and-earth portrait artist Young Kim’s work is on display and breaking away at Second Street Gallery.

For his February show, “Elemental,” North Carolina-based artist Young Kim took photographs of roughly 50 locals, then pared his subjects down to 10. He printed his images onto silkscreens then, in a process that gallery director Leah Stoddard likens to running a squeegee across a car windshield, rubbed clay and dirt across each before settling it onto flattened piles of salt, each weighing roughly 200 pounds, a very human weight.

Click here to watch a slideshow of images from "The Generations Project."

CC brought McDermott here for a reason. The young photographer (who has snapped pictures for C-VILLE) organized and opened “The Generations Project” this month at The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative, a slideshow documentary project pieced together by six local high school students that interviewed senior citizens from local nursing homes. Students met with their subjects—a bluegrass and gospel singer, a woman that makes quill pens, another woman that had suffered eight heart attacks—between September and January, and met with McDermott and Jesse Dukes (a producer for “With Good Reason,” a radio program by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities) every other week to edit their photos and audio recordings.

The project’s reception was a hit: Over 200 people jammed themselves into the tiny Belmont gallery, including folks young and old that worked on the project. In fact, both McDermott and Dukes mention that they are speaking with the Virginia Festival of the Book about combining an event featuring an author (they won’t specify who, but CC suspects Stephen Kiernan, who wrote a book about caring for the elderly titled Last Rights) and finding a new home for the show to keep it up through March.

McDermott is pretty humble concerning his exhibit; his grandfather was in a nursing home, but beyond this overlap he says that his goal was simply to give life to the stories of an older generation through the voices of a younger one. When Curt asks him how he selected nursing home residents as subjects, McDermott says that he sent out applications, but not everyone that received one was a good fit for the project.

“Some weren’t spry enough,” he says. The project strikes CC as something of a race to preserve local lore as well as the oral tradition, before age and technology eliminate both, like a fist through a pile of sand or salt.


For the latest installment of the Dance Report Card, Curt hit the floors at two venues: the 214 Community Arts Center and three, the Corner restaurant that replaced Jabberwocky last year.

CC arrived at 214 in time to grab a quick lesson in the rock-step from a pair of UVA Swing Dance Club members, then spent the next hour or so rhythmically pummeling his date’s feet to the sounds of the Acme Swing Mfg. Co., who turned out a particularly sharp blend of jazz and old-time standards. A few of the Charlottesville Contra Corners regulars were on-hand, but some UVA students rolled in wearing bowties as the night got a bit later. The space can be a bit cramped, but what sweaty dance factory isn’t? Throw in the perq of a live band whose repertoire doesn’t include “Shout” and some toe-tappers that could Charleston with the best of ’em, and you’ve got a hell of a night. Grade: A.

Have I got a story for you: Local nursing home residents find a second life for their tales in “The Generations Project,” on display at The Bridge.

Next stop was three, which may’ve tossed out Jabberwocky’s furniture and a good deal of its menu, but preserved the old restaurant’s ’80s dance night. Like swing dancing, ’80s night is about being brutally honest with yourself—do you really want to commit to three hours of “Billie Jean” and the Ghostbusters theme (yup, they played it) for that brief moment of glory when A Flock of Seagulls or “Under Pressure” hit the stereo? Thing is, Curt is more in his frantic, foot-flying element at ’80s night than at 214, so the answer was a resounding “Yes.” Grade: B+.

And then he danced. He danced so faaar awaaay.

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