Charlottesville Offers Multiple Venues for Artists and Performers

By Anne Gillem on April 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm EST
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Staring with the Paramount Theater, Charlottesville, VA is a great place to see a show.

“The Paramount is an incredible facility‚” says Chad Hershner‚ executive director. “The whole theater was built and crafted in reverence and homage to Thomas Jefferson.”

The 1‚042-seat Paramount‚ located on the Downtown Mall‚ opened in 1931 and underwent a $14 million restoration in 2004. The Charlottesville landmark is a survivor. Designed by Chicago architectural firm Rapp & Rapp‚ the theater features an elegant lobby‚ impressive chandeliers‚ an ornate auditorium and 18th-century Colonial scenes painted on silk panels.

Although the Paramount flourished into an era when many similar venues did not‚ it closed in 1974. The building was spared demolition‚ and in 1992 a community group purchased it and formed a not-for-profit corporation with the goal of resurrecting the once-grand movie house.

Strong community support from individuals and businesses also made possible the construction of the City Center for Contemporary Arts as a permanent home for three nonprofit arts groups – Live Arts‚ Second Street Gallery and Light House. The $3.8 million center‚ located at the corner of Second and Water Streets just off the Downtown Mall‚ opened on Halloween weekend in 2003.

Live Arts‚ a community performing-arts theater founded in 1990‚ occupies about three-quarters of the space. Second Street Gallery‚ dating to 1973‚ has shown works of more than 600 artists in 200 exhibitions. Light House‚ founded in 1999‚ is a media education center for teenagers who want to make motion pictures.

“The idea was the three groups all needed space‚” says spokeswoman Moira Kavanagh Crosby. “They were able to do together what would have been infinitely more difficult alone.”

Another longstanding tradition in Charlottesville is the Tuesday Evening Concert Series‚ started in 1948. The series of performances at the University of Virginia’s Cabell Hall Auditorium‚ featuring established musicians as well as up-and-coming artists‚ is one that loyal patrons never miss.

“Even though [Tuesday is] not a convenient night‚ people are there because they adore it‚” says Karen Pellon‚ executive director of the series. “My main mission‚ with the help of others‚ is to present artists of extraordinary quality‚ including established artists and rising artists. It’s a beautiful hall‚ and the feeling on concert nights is electric.”

Charlottesville’s diverse cultural offerings also include the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection and Study Center‚ which features 1‚600 objects assembled by avid collector John Kluge. The diverse collection at 400 Worrell Drive‚ Peter Jefferson Place‚ includes paintings‚ carvings‚ tools‚ woven materials and ceremonial clothing‚ says Margo Smith‚ director and curator of the collection. Exhibits are rotated three or four times annually.

“It’s something worth seeing more than once‚” Smith says.

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