Second Street Gallery sponsors "Artini," an annual celebration of both the visual and bartending arts.

'Ville of visual pleasures

Ah, Charlottesville, a city oozing with culture, where even running errands means running into art. Whether you're buying a book (The New Dominion Book Shop), consulting your accountant (Henderson and Everett's Gallery at 5th & Water), or shopping for jewelry (Angelo), you'll find yourself face-to-canvas with locally generated art.

    For enterprising Charlottesville businesses– from hair salons to chiropractors' offices– a spare wall today can be a gallery tomorrow. New venues open optimistically– only to flop with predictable regularity. When they do, local and regional artists simply shift exhibition locales. In fact, avoiding art in Charlottesville is harder than finding it (although quantity and quality are often in inverse proportions).

    In addition to the merry-go-round of smaller galleries, Charlottesville has its fair share of heavy-hitting venues that consistently offer interesting work. The University of Virginia Art Museum, though modest in size, has a super staff whose imagination, depth of knowledge, and connections bring in historic and modern work of international caliber. Plus, they're forever dreaming up new and informative ways to showcase the Museum's impressive permanent collection. This past year, the Museum added a video gallery to its space, creating opportunities to view new media.

    Downtown, the nonprofit Second Street Gallery bats in the avant-garde big leagues, spotlighting top-flight talent like Sally Mann and Jane South. With state-of-the-art lighting and two separate gallery spaces, the SSG also gives sought-after support to up-and-coming regional artists. Director Leah Stoddard, backed by a strong staff and an imaginative selection committee, has made SSG a consistent must-visit for devotées of contemporary art.

    Another Downtown nonprofit, the McGuffey Art Center, occupies a former elementary school on Second Street, where it offers local artists studio space in former classrooms (many open for drop-by visits). In addition to its monthly exhibitions, McGuffey hosts regular public forums to discuss hot topics in art.

The Charlottesville Community Design Center brings the nonprofit zing to the Downtown Mall with exhibits and educational programs focused on architecture and community design. Over on Water Street, the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, which has a Belmont exhibition space, sponsors artists and interactive art programs with an eye to building community. Its popular Thursday film series offers the rare chance to see truly independent videos and movies.

Several private galleries also enliven Water Street, with Les Yeux du Monde filling its expansive walls with pedigreed work on the corner of First St. and Migration: A Gallery doing the same a few blocks away on Fifth.

Beyond Downtown, the hilltop Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, out 250W, is home to the largest indigenous Australian art collection outside Australia. Meanwhile, on another hilltop, Piedmont Virginia Community College, located off 20S, regularly displays imaginative exhibitions in the North and South Galleries of the V. Earl Dickinson Building.

Even those who don't like to get out of their cars can get their art fix via the publicly assisted "Art-in-Place," which annually expands its drive-by art program, transforming the streets and byways of Charlottesville into outdoor galleries.

But the biggest visual buzz in town recently involved a trio of new annual events, each infusing C'ville's sultry summer with refreshingly cool art. The Festival of the Photograph's "three days of peace, love, and photography" debuted in June 2007, temporarily turning downtown into a gallery for some of the best shots from the pages of National Geographic. The Second Street Gallery-sponsored Artini, for which local restaurants compete to pour the best art-themed drink, got people sweating a second year in July with its art- and dance-fueled bash. And, finally, the "circus" has started coming to town, via 2006's Wunderkammer and 2007's Shentai, providing high-octane performance art.

In short, Charlottesville's profusion of art-full opportunities is nothing short of eye-opening.


University of Virginia Art Museum, 155 Rugby Road, near UVA- With as many as three shows at any one time, the former Bayly Art Museum mixes archival holdings with smaller traveling presentations and modern art. Tues-Sun 1-5pm. 924-3592

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, 400 Peter Jefferson Place- The name pretty much says it: Charlottesville's own little outback for Aboriginal artwork. Tues-Sat 9am-3pm. 244-0234

Second Street Gallery, Corner of Second and E. Water Sts.- With its move to the City Center for the Arts, SSG added the Dové Gallery, suitable for installations and video projects, to its main exhibition space. Cutting-edge contemporary art by regional, national, and international artists comes in monthly doses. Tues-Sat 10sm-5pm. 977-7284

–>>For other museums in this area, see our Attractions section and our Kids Stuff section.

McGuffey Art Center, 201 Second St. NW- Located in the building that used to house McGuffey School, it has become the area's big playground for local artists. Over the last 30 years, the McGuffey has become a hive of artists' studios and fresh local work. It hosts the annual "Charlottesville in 2D" and local high school students' art shows (neither to be missed). Tues-Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 1-5pm. 295-7973

Les Yeux du Monde, 115 S. First St.- This gallery leans toward sophisticated single-artist shows, with an occasional group event. A favorite exhibit space for regional artists and UVA art faculty. Tues-Sat 11am-5pm. 973-5566

C&O Gallery, 515 E. Water St.- Tiny but classy gallery next to the cosy and classy restaurant. Showcases local artists. Available for private parties. All week 9am-6pm or by appointment. 971-7044

Art Upstairs, 112 W. Main St., York Place, Suite 4- Art Upstairs (though it has moved from upstairs) each month highlights the work of one of its more than 20 member artists. Tues-Sat noon-5pm with extended hours on Fridays. 923-3900

Bozart, 211 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall- A collective and a retail space, Bozart splits the difference between local art and craftwork. Each month one of its 20 member artists is featured in an exhibit. Wed-Th noon-6pm, Fri-Sat noon-9pm, Sun 1-4pm. 296-3919

Charlottesville Community Design Center, 101 E. Main St.- A new venue on the Downtown Mall, the CCDC seeks to educate the public about architecture and structural design with exhibitions and public events. 984 2232

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, 717 Rugby Road- In addition to spiritual duties, the TJMCUU (that's Unitarian Universalist) hosts monthly art exhibits viewable daily 9am-5pm, with the artist's opening on the second Sunday of every month at 1pm. 293-8179.

Campbell Hall Public Gallery, Rugby Road near UVA- The architecture school's tiny gem of a display space on the second floor of Campbell Hall. Trouble is, it's closed while construction additions at Campbell Hall remain ongoing. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. 924-3715

Mudhouse, 213 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall- Students and other local artists find plenty of hang-space for work that resonates with the coffeeshop's eclectic crowd. 984-6833

The New Dominion Book Shop, 404 E. Main St.- The Downtown Mall's classiest independent bookstore lends its landing to monthly exhibits, mostly oil paintings of the landscape/bucolic variety. 295-2552

Café Cubano, 211 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall-  This coffeeshop/restaurant offers plenty of wallspace for local artists' exhibits. 971-8743

Transient Crafters, 118 W. Main on the Downtown Mall.- Also an artisans' cooperative, this new-agey, arts n' crafts-type gallery frequently invites featured artists in for hands-on sessions. Mon-Thurs, Sat 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-9pm and Sun 12pm-6pm. 972-9500

C'ville Coffee, 1301 Harris St.- Yet another café where you can get your caffeine and visual fixes in one fell swoop. Features a small play area for kiddies. Community-oriented art changes monthly. 979-4402

Piedmont Virginia Community College Galleries-  During the academic year, the North and South Galleries of the V. Earl Dickinson Building serve up imaginative group exhibitions as well as showcases of noteworthy individual artists. Always worth the trip up the hill! 501 College Drive. 961-5202

The Gallery @ 5th & Water, Fifth and Water Sts.- Actually the foyer of an architectural firm, this gallery nevertheless showcases local artists' work with a new show each month. 9am-5pm. 295-4204

Sage Moon Gallery, 420 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall.- One of the biggest– if not the very biggest– gallery in town. Holds monthly feature exhibitions for individual artists. 977-9997

Migration: A Gallery, 119 5th St. SE- A gorgeous space that features local and national work. 293-2200

La Galeria, 218 W. Market St.- An eclectic gallery that showcases the most prolific of local artists. 293-7003

Other miscellaneous venues

The following host sporadic shows that change unpredictably. Call first:

Abundant Life Chiropractic, 201 E. Main St., Suite Q (Suite Q, second floor above Zocalo). 979-5433.

Angelo, 202 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-9256

Ben Around Tattoos, 701 W. Main St. 923-8282

Fellini's #9, 200 W. Market St. 979-4279

Keller Williams, 300 Preston Ave., Suite 500, 220-2201

Main Street Market's Feast Gallery, 416 W. Main St., 296-8521

Martha Jefferson Hospital, 459 Locust Ave., 982-7000

Sidetracks Music, 218 Water St., 295-3080


For art lovers, the place to be is First Fridays, held on– you guessed it– the first Friday of every month. Area galleries throw open their doors to all comers for receptions featuring refreshments and a chance to chat up the artist.

Culture lovers Jeff Saine and Terri Allard revel in the monthly art-fest that is First Fridays