By Joe Bargmann
Best of C-VILLE attracted tens of thousands of votes this year. In fact, the total—which, by policy, we do not reveal—was the highest ever. One thing we can tell you is that more ballots were cast for IX Art Park than any other nominee (sorry, Bodo’s). Here is the IX trophy case:
• Community garden: winner
• Small music venue: runner-up
• Art museum or gallery: runner-up
• Dramatic arts venue: honorable mention
• Kids’ park: honorable mention
Looking at this list, or just plain looking at IX, it’s easy to understand why the complex can be confusing to the uninitiated. Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery (also a big vote-getter this year) anchors the northwest corner, and North American Sake Brewery moved in last year. But food and drink are only part of the draw, and because they fall under the general category of “culture,” they don’t necessarily feel out of place at IX.
This is true, in part, because IX is about inclusion. You may love or hate the public art—for example, a large sculpture of tattooed human buttocks—but you’ll only find it at IX. You may not revel in reggae, dance hall, or Afro beat music, or even know how Burmese or Haitan food tastes—but IX’s Positive Kulture Festival delivers all of that and more. Weekly events include salsa and bachata fusion dance parties, pay-what-you-can group yoga, and demonstrations of capoeira resistência, a martial art practiced by the West African diaspora.
IX swims in the mainstream with other events, including wine tastings and Hawaiian-shirt parties for margarita-swilling Jimmy Buffet fans. And kids go kooky for IX, because it’s a great place to play while their parents grab a bite at at Brazos Tacos.
So, as tempting as it may be for newbies to wonder what the heck IX Art Park is, the better option may be to check it out, partake of its wildly varied offerings, and then ask a different question: What would Charlottesville be without IX?
The answer is: less exciting, less inclusive, less colorful, less enriching, less healthy, and basically a lot less fun.