Piedmont Council for the Arts serves the creative good

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Local artist Patrick Costello leads students to create natural sculptures in Piedmont Council for the Arts’ workshop Arts Inspire. (Photo by Sarah Lawson)

Charlottesville has no shortage of art; the Downtown area is packed with galleries and concert venues, the McGuffey studios are a prominent landmark, and many restaurants and coffee shops provide venues for local creators.

But as pervasive as Charlottesville’s art scene may seem, it doesn’t reach everyone. Arts education has been declining nationally for years, and access to the arts is limited everywhere, particularly for low-income children. Studies have shown that a child’s exposure to art has a significant effect on cognitive development, social engagement and career potential. This is one reason why, in a town full of arts organizations, the mission of the Piedmont Council for the Arts is particularly relevant.

Arts education is part of the PCA’s broad program, encompassing everything from painting and opera, to slam poetry, noise bands, and quilting exhibitions. In the words of Executive Director Sarah Lawson, the organization “serves as a unifying force, bringing together artists, organizations, and people who are interested in the arts.” They partner with artists and member organizations, and the list reads like a who’s-who of Charlottesville arts. ”

Spring for the Arts, PCA’s annual fundraiser, takes place on Wednesday and features a silent auction with works by Dean Dass, John Borden Evans, and Kristin Reiber Harris, as well as live performances by Beleza and the Charlottesville Ballet. “The atmosphere is something like a cocktail party, but better,” says Communications Director Victoria Long. On display will be photographs from the recent Arts Inspire workshop, “Natural Sculptures,” led by local artist Patrick Costello. Student participants spent an afternoon with Costello, constructing sculptures out of natural materials. When asked if it was difficult to interest students in the sculpture, he explained, “I was actually more worried about whether the adults in the class would be into it. Kids have fewer boundaries, so they’re far less hesitant to take materials as they are, and transform them into sculpture through intention. When we’re older, we need a context for that, to see it as legitimate. But the kids would take trash, blades of grass, and sticks—the rest of us might be frustrated by the impermanence of that, but the kids were happy just to be creating something.”

And the beat goes on…and on
Oneida is one of the more restlessly inventive rock bands of the past 15 years. Its copious discography ranges from the catchy, string-quartet inflected indie-folk of The Wedding to the sprawling triple-album Rated O, whose lengthy tracks included dubbed-out beat experiments, epic psychedelic trips, and thrashing post-punk anthems. The band has solidified its reputation through a series of ecstatic, energetic live performances.

My first exposure to Oneida was in the basement of Tokyo Rose in the summer of ’02. The set began with “Sheets of Easter.” The singer mumbled, “You’ve got to look into the light,” and suddenly the band launched into a rapid, energetic barrage, in which a single chord, pounding beat, and the constant chant of “Light! Light! Light! Light!” were repeated in perfect synchronization, without variation. At first it seemed like a provocation, but the abrasion turned to awe as the band continued to pound that same note over and over and over again. I wondered how long the band could continue—and how long we would listen—as the whole thing was too hypnotically exciting for either party to give up the ecstatic musical staring contest. They played that same chord for well over 15 minutes. After this initial, exhausting mind-clearer, Oneida easily filled the rest of the set with wild psychedelic punk.

One of Oneida’s secret weapons is the phenomenal drummer known as Kid Millions. He’s now touring with his solo project Man Forever, collaborating with a different set of musicians at each tour stop. When he takes the stage on Tuesday at The Southern, the band members joining him on stage will include Mike Gangloff, Nathaniel Bowles, John Harouff, and Mark Shue, and their set consists of a single song. (Great Dads and the Plums open.) Dave Halstead, publicist for Thrill Jockey Records notes, “The actual track on the record is 18-plus minutes long and in the live setting they typically stretch for 30 to 40 minutes to achieve maximum transcendental effect. It’s quite the feat of stamina for the drummers.”

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