UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 03 Fall 15 Library
Whitney Browne
UVa Arts

Faculty Research Grant for the Arts: Cultural Landscapes Project Ignites Discussion and Action

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The history of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is well-documented, and, by most accounts, the 1973 Master Plan by Lawrence Halprin and its centerpiece Downtown Mall have resulted in one of the nation’s most highly touted urban renewal success stories. Now, more than 40 years later, a special project at UVa is looking deeper into the rest of the plan’s unfulfilled promise. The project specifically focuses on the area just south of the Downtown Mall, including the Pollock’s Branch corridor and the Garrett Street neighborhood, that was razed during the urban renewal process, an area of the city that is facing major changes yet again as the city looks towards redevelopment.

Crowdsourced Cartographies, following the legacy of Lawrence and Anna Halprin’s innovative public engagement process, is an interdisciplinary public art and mapping project that will deploy hybrid techniques and theories of dance, photography, and landscape architecture in support of a series of community-based movement workshops, resulting in a crowd-sourced cultural landscape atlas. The mapping process will build on the traditional atlas model used to navigate and understand the world for centuries and expand the boundaries of traditional single-perspective cartography to include more embodied, place-based interpretations from multiple perspectives.

This project, one of many initiatives likely required to provide opportunities for local residents to have an impact on the practical outcomes of a future design process involving the future Pollock’s Branch Greenway, contributes an experience-based engagement practice through a variety of methods, including visual art, kinesthetic awareness, interactive workshops, and live performance.

The project, in part supported by a Faculty Research Grant for the Arts from the Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts, brings together Beth Meyer, Dean of the School of Architecture and a noted expert on the history of the Downtown Mall and Lawrence Halprin’s design process; Katie Schetlick, a Lecturer in in the Dance Program within UVa’s Drama Department, whose choreographic work focuses on the politics of space; and Rob McGinnis, a Distinguished Fellow and Lecturer in the School of Architecture, who is a nationally recognized cultural landscape expert and landscape architect.

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