Extraordinary feats!


Charlottesville filmmakers popularize an image of the city, without a single mention of TJ, the Grish or DMB

The silver screen has always been celebrated for its ability to turn ordinary folks into larger than life characters. By “ordinary folks,” of course we mean well-connected Hollywood types with rock hard abs, chiseled features and few, if any, visible scars. This year, two local films completed the astonishing feat of turning everyday Charlottesville people into larger than life characters—without talking about a Grammy-winning band, that bestselling dude or the smart fella who lived over on that thar hill.

A local teacher named John Hunter was the first to get zapped, in Chris Farina’s World Peace…and other Fourth Grade Achievements. The film follows Hunter, who harnesses the carnivalesque nature of his classroom for a game where students must save an imaginary world with diplomacy. And then in Meghan Eckman’s The Parking Lot Movie, a ragtag assemblage of workers at the Corner Parking Lot became overnight celebrities. Between them, the films garnered attention from festivals like South by Southwest, media outlets like NPR, PBS and—let’s throw it in there—this paper.



Remarkably, RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick stays cool in hot water

Each year, more locals throw on their water wings, grip their snorkels in their mouths and belly flop into the debate over the 50-year Community Water Supply Plan. They come up gasping and sputtering over issues like the feasibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and designs of earthen dams for Ragged Mountain, and occasionally use words like “fraud” and “in cohoots” when they regain their breath.

Yet Tom Frederick, the Executive Director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, seems to float on top of the issues, as aquatically Zen as an inflatable dolphin.

Frederick has weathered his share of choppy waters from critics: Passed only two years after he took the executive director gig, the Community Water Supply Plan seems more like a motorized wave pool, tirelessly churning discontent among locals. But Frederick—in control of his budget and, more impressive, his temper—makes us want to wade right into the water supply debate. Heck, he makes the water look fine.


Patricia Kluge transforms words into bonus cash with a yard sale to beat ’em all

When she opted to downsize last October, local winery owner and philanthropist Patricia Kluge planted a $100 million “For Sale” sign in the yard of Albemarle House, her 300-acre, 13-bedroom estate. She soon discovered the housing market was under-ripe for such luxuries (she slashed the price by 52 percent within months). So it must have come as some surprise in June when her two-day rummage sale (O.K., O.K., it was a full-court press estate auction run by Sotheby’s) far exceeded expectations, bringing in $15.2 million, about 69 percent above what the auction house had estimated. Add to that the proceeds from the sale of her jewelry earlier in the year and La Kluge topped $20 million. What accounts for this recession-defying monumental trick? Apparently, six little words, the auction-world equivalent of a magician’s “abracadabra:” “From the collection of Patricia Kluge.”



Teresa Sullivan to head UVA, a college she couldn’t even have attended at 18

You know what’s amazing? Women had the right to vote in the U.S. a full 50 years before they could earn a bachelor’s degree at our local university. By 1970, women had long called themselves Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Senators, and (for Pete’s sake) solo flyers across the Atlantic. But it was only in that late year that they could begin to call themselves UVA coeds.
You know what’s equally amazing? This January saw the Board of Visitors vote in Teresa A. Sullivan—who, not to press the point, is A Woman—as UVA’s next president. President! Head honcho! The buck stops with her!

Hailing from the University of Michigan, Sullivan started her new job August 1. Faculty Senate Chairwoman Ann Hamric commented simply that Sullivan’s selection showed the university wanted the “very best person to lead UVA.” We say it shows heartwarming progress where attitudes were once embarrassingly behind the curve.

Still, the times aren’t done a-changin’. Sullivan takes the reins at a school where only 12 percent of tenured engineering faculty are women, and in an age when only 23 percent of American colleges have women presidents. But those female Hoos now outnumber their male counterparts, 56 to 44 percent. And this fall, for the first time, they’ll study under someone they can address as “Madame President.”



The photo festival retracts and spells some new, unexpected magic

The seasoned illusionist reveals not his methods. So naturally, it was tough to tell whether there was rhyme or reason to the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph’s schedule. For three years the fest giveth, and on the fourth it taketh away? Huh?

The fest didn’t take our Benjamin and turn it into a one-spot. The trick was called LOOKbetween, and like a good disappearing act, it rendered the festival’s fourth year almost invisible to most denizens of the Downtown Mall. But those who were paying attention were greeted with a voila, a half hour outside of town; and anyone who made it to the farm in White Hall that June weekend can tell you that magic was falling around dozens of up-and-coming photographers like so much confetti.

First, an inflatable screen was illuminated with incredible images; later, bullfrogs from the nearby lake began to croak and a massive bonfire overtook the festivities. The young photographers founded a tent city on a Sugar Hollow Farm where they ate, swam and photographed. With a mere flick of the wrist, the fest had gone from a behemoth presence to a quaint celebration that was as magnificent and successful on its scale as its parent had been for three years beforehand.