CULTURE- BUZZ BOX- Bridge builders: We People uses art to unite

Mixed media in contemporary art is nothing new, but this week's unveiling of the flagship project from the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative promises to tie its disparate ingredients together with a pronounced local flavor. "We People" is an ambitious sculpture installation that also integrates elements of portrait and film with something its audiences will undoubtedly find captivating: themselves.

Over the summer, the Bridge charged New York area filmmaker Joey Garfield and artist David Ellis with the task of designing a uniquely Charlottesville art project. The result is a large sculpture, on display around town this week, that will be used as a projection surface for two concurrent videos, one of them a series of interviews with Charlottesville residents shot by Garfield, and the other a string of portraits of local folk by Ellis, animated so as to seamlessly morph together.

As its name implies, the Bridge aims to close the gaps between local communities by bringing people together through adventurous artistic mixtures that might not otherwise happen. 

"We do that by building events that create partnerships between organizations and an exchange between artists and the community, in particular, bringing different demographics together, whether it's class or race or income," explains Bridge director Greg Kelly.

The headlining events are accordingly diverse. Thursday brings to the Satellite Ballroom a display of Ellis' video-art "Motion Painting" with a live score by John D'earth and Friends, followed by a screening of Garfield's hip-hop film, Breath Control: The History Of The Human Beat Box, at the Satellite Ballroom and a performance by local hip-hop collective AudioState.  

After posting up on Friday in front of the Free Speech Wall downtown, The Bridge will host a closing ceremony on Saturday at the Belmont headquarters that Kelly describes as a "reception/Block Party"– that is, a multi-media party of sorts.

But perhaps most interesting of all is the degree to which the project manages to be specific to Charlottesville and general-purpose at the same time. Outside artists were brought in to supply the parts, and the format they settled on is not Charlottesville-specific enough to prohibit reincarnation in other locales.

Based on his interview series, Garfield doesn't think that poses a problem: "The questions and answers that people are giving in Charlottesville, the things that are happening, are happening all across America," he says. Maybe that's the most important bridge of all.

The following Bridge projects are open to the public: Thursday, October 12, Breath Control benefit show at Satellite Ballroom, 7pm, $8 donation; event at Free Speech Monument, Downtown Mall, dusk-11pm; Saturday, October 14, concluding event, block party in Belmont, free. Details:

We People poster