This Week, 9/4

These days, when people talk about “innovation” or “entrepreneurship,” they’re often talking about tech. But the drive to experiment and create predates our digital age, of course, and it isn’t confined to code.

On Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Ivar Aass of Spirit Lab Distilling, who’s brewing single malt whiskey and other delicious drinks from a tiny industrial space in Belmont, which he runs with his wife Sarah. Aass, a New York transplant, has a tinkerer’s enthusiasm, eager to talk about everything from the tiny copper still he started out with in his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen (and which he still uses, along with a much larger model), to his latest concoctions.

Later that evening, at the Jefferson School, I caught Hambone, an Afro-futurist take on Hamlet, which has just finished its run. A project of the Charlottesville Players Guild, itself a revival of the city’s all-black theater troupe, the production brought new life to that brilliant but well-worn play, with shifts that made the performance resonate in surprising ways.

And in our feature this week, we write about Bridget Donaldson, the transportation research scientist whose innovation is essentially nothing more than a few miles of fencing. But her project—a way to funnel deer under highway overpasses in order to prevent collisions—has proven to be remarkably successful, potentially providing a low-cost fix for a persistent problem.

We’d do well to bring that same spirit—the willingness to question, to be playful and daring, to experiment—to other, more intractable policy issues here in town. Charlottesville has lately become known as a haven for “makers,” but that sense of ingenuity can be applied in all kinds of ways. And it’s what makes our city a better, more interesting place.

Posted In:     Opinion,The Editor's Desk

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