Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

First Friday

Saturday September 8, 2012
Charlottesville, Virginia


One of the many things I love about Charlottesville is its Downtown Mall.

For a small city of 43,500, Charlottesville is sometimes a happenin’ town.  The University of Virginia brings a great deal of culture, art, music and sports but the town itself is no slouch.

On the post about the President’s visit I showed some pictures of the great downtown walking mall  The city has a celebration of visual art there on the First Friday of every month.  There are an amazing number of art galleries for the size of the town and they all have openings with hors d’oeuvres and wine on the First Friday of every month which of course is tonight.  It is a beautiful evening, in the low 70’s dropping into the 60’s, when I head out on a rerun of a favorite activity of mine.


The first place I always go is the Old McGuffey School (yes of McGuffey Reader Fame).

It’s now the McGuffey Art Center.  The old school is a block off of the mall and two blocks down from the Central Library another favorite place of mine.  McGuffey, as it is known,  is leased to a group of artists, A LARGE and diversified group, and the classrooms are now art studios.  Wish I’d thought to get a picture of the outside of the great old brick building with its wide steps going up to the big front doors.  How could elementary students ever open those doors?

I walk in and at 5:30pm it’s packed with people out for an evening of art.  Lots of studios are open so you can see potters, painters - watercolor, oil acrylic, encaustic, and every other medium.  There are  also sculptors, stain glass, jewelry and paper artists.  There are even two dance studios.

Some of the things on display

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The painters on display for the particular month have their works hanging all along the walls of both the first and second floors.   You can walk around and chat with friends while you sip wine, eat hors d’oeuvres, look at the paintings and drop into the artists’ studios.





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There is a special separate gallery showing which features multiple pieces of one McGuffey member.  That person, and their friends, provide the hors d’oeuvres on the tables in the downstairs hallway.


The McGuffey Art Center was the first gallery opened in Charlottesville as far as I know but many others followed and after I have enjoyed the food, a non alcoholic beverage, the art and seen a number of my friends with studios there, I wander out and on over to the mall.


There are many many many restaurants on the mall itself and on the side streets. 

I walk by Fellini’s on my way down a side street to the mall There is an “interesting” piece of “art” across the street next to a teeny tiny take out window.

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Restaurants line the entire 8 blocks of the mall.  And folks are out enjoying fine dining with linen table clothes and pizza with your fingers at tall bars with stools.  Everywhere in the architecture are signs of this town’s main man Thomas Jefferson. 


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Even Christian’s Pizza which has taken over what was for years, “The Young Men’s Shop” has fancy windows looking into its cooking areas.

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McGuffey is one block off the far end of the mall.  On my way to the other end, I stop by several other galleries. 


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At BozArt I am amazed at this piece which the curator tells me was done by spray painting.  Really?  The detail is incredible.


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I pass all sorts of entertainment. 

These young juggling brothers are putting on a well attended side walk show.

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This group of women is watching intently.

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There are buskers and vendors of all sorts.


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I have so many hors d’oeuvres and snacks at the openings that the never ending restaurants don’t even tempt me.

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Charlottesville’s finest are making sure everything is safe for everyone. 

I see them several times zip by on their bicycles as I make my way toward the Pavilion and the live music.

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I reach the Pavilion which has outdoor music and beer available.

You are carded at the entrance if you want to buy beer and given a wrist band.  No band, no beer.  Lots of folks with and without are sitting around listening to the music.   Some are dancing on the floor way down in front of the stage.  Yes the same stage from which the President spoke.

Those little bitty people in the far distance of the top right picture are the band.

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There are always really interesting looking people on the mall.  I figure they are trying to draw attention to themselves so they won’t mind if I take a picture and post it publically.








It’s free speech all right, of all kinds.

As I return down the mall, I see more interesting people writing on the Free Speech Wall in front of City Hall.  Notice what important impassioned messages of free speech they are writing.  Thomas Paine would be proud of their civic concerns!

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In defense of the wall, there are often actually things worth reading. 
And arguments even.  Just not tonight unfortunately.  Although I didn’t check out the other side.  Someone will wash it all off by morning anyway.  But I am running out of time to make my 7:30 appointment.


It’s dusk as I hurry by the President’s campaign headquarters.

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I see the Marquee, I’m going to make it.


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It’s only 7:25 and I have a reserved seat in the 7th row.  It’s an election year, the Capitol Steps are in town one week after the President’s visit.  How can I not go and see them??   Don’t you just LOVE the Marquee??

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They are performing in the gorgeous restored 1930’s Paramount Theater.  It’s a really stunning venue.


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The Capitol Steps (CLICK Here for website) began as a group of senate staffers doing satire at a Christmas Party in 1981. 


Over 30 years later they are still doing song parodies and skits.  They are hilarious and poke fun at all sides and the crazy things in the news.  Like Chick-fil-A.

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Tonight they put on a two hour show poking fun at the two Presidential Candidates and at all the other political figures including of course Sarah Palin, Nancy Pilosi, the Supreme Court members, Former presidents Bush and Clinton.

To a tune from Mary Poppins which I’m sure you can guess, they sing

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They satirize the two governor buds of Texas G.W. Bush and Rick Perry.

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To the tune of Lyin’ Eyes they sing You Can’t Hide This Biden Guy.  I am, along with everyone else laughing so hard I can’t hold my camera still so most of my pictures are pretty blurry.  These folks are very creative and VERY funny.  Look at their schedule and if you can possibly see them, DO!   Laughter is good for you!!

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After giving the Steps a rousing standing ovation the crowd and I spill out onto the still partying mall.

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It’s nearly 10:00 at night and the crowds continue filling the restaurants.  They look  like they are just getting started as I walk back down to the end of the mall and head for home.


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If you come through Virginia on I 95 or I 81, take a short detour over on I64 to Charlottesville.

Not only can you join the Friday nights on the mall, you can see Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and University of Virginia.   AND you can stop in at Miller’s where Dave Matthews was the bartender and they are still serving local musical talent, beer and strange Southern Food.
(Are my readers young enough to know who Dave Matthews is??)  J


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  1. Looks like a fun evening, We went to Monticello in May of 2008, but I don't think we went into the downtown area.

  2. I love Capitol Steps. I agree... they manage to make fun of just about everyone. I made many business trips to DC and always made time to take in a show. I've been wondering how you are doing. Hope you are well. Karen

  3. It looks like a fun evening. Love those cool temperatures!

  4. Wow, what a busy place. Looks like fun for a city and I'm not a city girl. Yet I'd enjoy the Capital Steps.

  5. What a wonderful night! We will definitely do that some time. I love things like that..especially when food is combined with art. The show sounds like a lot of fun, too.

  6. What a great way to spend an evening!

  7. Loved Monticello but missed downtown. Will have to go back someday.
    Would love to take in that show :)

  8. I'm in my 50's and I enjoy Dave Matthews's music. Would love to see the Capitol Steps. I have heard them on NPA several times.
    Sounds like you are truly feeding your soul right now. Good for you!!

  9. OH! OH! I'm young enough!

    This troupe sounds like fun. I've heard of them, but never seen them.

  10. Reminds me of downtown Raleigh. They also have a First Friday event with the arts. I hate big election years. I feel like there are no winners.

  11. Although I'm not a fan of crowds, it looks like a fun place to be on a Friday night!

  12. Great night Sherry!! You sure covered a lot of ground and enjoyed so much in one night:o)) That should really help getting over travel withdrawal. Life's grand when you have so many choices!!

  13. Looks like a great place. We need to put it on the list of places to visit.

  14. I love first Friday's. So many towns or cities have them. They are a good way to showcase new artists. Dave Matthews is one of my favorites! Seen him in concert several times :)

  15. You should have brought your mirror with all the post cards to display at the art gallery. It is an original work, for sure. But who would you be able to say the artist is? ;c)

    Dave Matthews, he's the guy that needs RV black tank dumping lessons, right?

  16. Count us in as knowing who Dave Matthews is.

    Love Monticello -- been there a few times. And been to downtown Charlottesville too, only not on First Friday. Sounds like a lot of fun!

    Will keep an eye out for the Capitol Steps. We're always up for a good laugh!

  17. I am sorry we missed out on Charlottesville when we visited Monticello. First Friday looked like a great way to spend an evening! Glad to see you out having fun. Hope David is getting stronger day by day.

  18. What a hopping city! It must be wonderful to be out of swamp and back surrounded by so much culture for some needed happy times, gorgeous art, and yummy eating! I'm putting Charlottesville on my radar map!

  19. sounds like a great city very busy with lots to see...adding it to my list of sights to see...Hope David is doing well and getting stronger every day!!!

  20. looks like a perfect day- Did you go by yourself???? Glad you had fun

  21. Got to love Charlottesville - I know I do. Great entertainment, interesting people and many choices for art, food and the like. This blog brings back many good memories :) And...yes, the Capital Steps are hilarious! I'll have to see them again!


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