Making Space for Art

The Declaration – scene – January 25, 2007

On January 11th The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative kicked off their Winter Film Series with a presentation of various Internet films. Max Fenton, the evening’s host, crouched behind a laptop that was connected to a projector and surfed his way to different online movies. What he presented ranged from abstract washes of color to homemade YouTube clips to sketches from recent Saturday Night Live episodes. This free-form presentation and eclectic mix seems to be what drives series’ curators and the film series that they have created.

The Bridge began hosting the film series in the summer of 2006, and they have continued the tradition with a fall series and the current winter series. In the beginning it was merely a group of friends, namely James Ford, Sarah Lawson and Max Fenton, coming together to show films that they thought others would enjoy. The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, which was founded by Zack Worrell and Greg Atrim Kelly in 2004, was a natural venue in which to launch such a project. “It started as a larger extension of what The Bridge does. It’s a community-based, non-profit arts organization that brings progressive art to Charlottesville and provided a venue for art and making art a part of the community,” said curator James Ford. Over the course of the past two seasons, the series has expanded and developed into a larger but still intimate program.

The screenings take place in The Bridge’s arts space, which is just past the Downtown Mall and next to Spudnuts. The room is unfinished, with a hard concrete floor , but The Bridge folks know how to turn it into more than just an abandoned store front. The outside of the building is decorated with a mural by Brooklyn artist David Ellis. Inside there are refreshments, lines of folding chairs and, most importantly, films.

While popcorn, folding chairs and a projector might not seem like the most ideal environment, they emphasize what the curators view as the most important aspect of the series. “I like the idea that watching a film doesn’t have to be like going to the Regal. You can just get a projector and some folding chairs and invite your friends over,” said James Ford. Rather than aspiring to present films in a traditional cinematic setting, Ford and his fellow curators stick to a much more independent, do-it-yourself approach. “The film series is basically trying to show the stuff that we like that is not getting shown at OFFscreen or at the film festival,” he remarked.

This approach allows the curators to pick the films that they find the most interesting and share them with the community. As the presentation of Internet-based movies showed, anything goes at The Bridge. Films in the past have ranged from the classic hip-hop documentary Style Wars to avant-garde and experimental shorts such as Brakhage’s Mothlight and Anthony McCall’s Line Describing A Cone.

The Winter Series promises to offer even more exciting and diverse presentations. Ford, Lawson and Fenton will each curate a night of films, but they have also invited other members of the community to participate and present films. On January 25th, U.Va. professors William Wylie and Kevin Everson will host “Photo-reelists: Films by Photographers”. Sarah Lawson will host “Tinted Love: Films and the Color Blue” on February 8th, and James Ford will host “Visual Exploration: Experimental and Abstract Films” on February 22nd. Jordan Taylor will wrap up the Winter Series with “The Sporting Life: Films on the Theme of Sports” on March 8th.

There are plenty of places to see movies around U.Va. and Charlottesville. OFFscreen and the University Program’s Council’s Cinematheque both offer screenings in Newcomb Hall, and Charlottesville’s movie theaters make it possible to see a flick anytime you want. However, if you would like to skip the overpriced soft drinks and rigid seating and meet some people who are passionate about film, make your way to The Bridge this winter.

The Bridge Arts Space is located at 209 Monticello Road, which is past the Downtown Mall and next to Spudnuts. Screenings begin at 7pm every other Thursday and admittance is $4. Check out for more information. In addition to the film series, The Bridge Arts Space will also be hosting “Cast Off Your Idylls! Cast Off Your Sloth,” a group art showcase organized by U.Va. students Andy Jenkins and Patrick Costello, from February 2nd-5th.

John Ruscher is a fourth-year English major who knows there’s nothing quite like unusual last namin’!

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