This is the second blog post in a series about the culture that the city has to offer. To read the first blog post, please visit this link.

Story by: Olivia Knott

The music scene in Charlottesville

Big name stars like Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan may have stopped by John Paul Jones Arena this past year, but Charlottesville music really shines because of its intimate concert venues and penchant for attracting folk, indie rock and bluegrass bands from all over the country. Here are a few concerts I’m most excited about this summer:

Tall Tall Trees with Christopher Paul Sterling July 16 at The Garage

Watching a show at The Garage is a must. The tiny venue is an actual garage converted into a performance space for artists and musicians, letting you relive your days of high school guitarist stardom among the gardening tools of your parents’ garage- except cooler looking and probably much more talented.

Combining blue grass and folk rock, Tall Tall Trees is no exception- prepare for some killer banjo playing.

Watch a past performance by the band Toy Soldiers at The Garage to see what you’re in store for:

Rock’n to Lock’n with Kings of Belmont, Steal the Prize, Erin & the Wildfire, and We Are the Design July 18 at the Jefferson

This concert is awesome because:

  1. You get to show support for local bands
  2. You get to pick which one will perform at Lock’n Music Festival
  3. You get reminded that Lock’n is only about a month and a half away… too early to start a countdown? Nope.

Lock’n Music Festival takes place Sept. 4-7 in Arrington, Va., only about an hour away from Charlottesville. This year’s line-up includes Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, Willie Nelson, The Allman Brothers Band and The String Cheese Incident. The festival is very student friendly, offering discounted student tickets for only $180 for all three days!

An Evening with Yonder Mountain String Band Aug. 31 at The Jefferson

Yonder Mountain String Band offers a taste of true Colorado Bluegrass. They can’t seem to get enough of Charlottesville either. Returning to The Jefferson for a second time, do not miss your chance to see a band whom concert reviewer Jason Warren once praised as “rooted in traditions of acoustic music,” but with the “spirit of San Francisco dance bands” like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. I can’t wait to see this groovy combination of influences live.

My favorite song? “40 Miles from Denver”

Finally… for music on any night, check out Miller’s on the Downtown Mall, which plays live music 7 nights a week. One of their regulars, the John D’earth Quintet, headed by U.Va. Director of Jazz Studies John D’earth, has played there for more than 25 years, proving that Miller’s is a Charlottesville classic for live music.

Happy listening!

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Story by: Olivia Knott

Besides being home to Mr. Jefferson’s university, Charlottesville prides itself for its arts and music scene. Between taking classes and working that internship, make sure to check out what the city has to offer this summer.


Free Friday Finds

First Fridays

On the first Friday of every month, Charlottesville art galleries open up their exhibits to showcase a featured artist of the month. These gallery openings often include food, drinks, music and an appearance or live performance by the artist whose work is being shown. Galleries are generally open from 5- 9 p.m. Best part? All gallery events are free!

Check out the July and August First Friday guides here.

Fridays After 5

During the summer months, the nTelos Wireless Pavillion hosts Fridays After 5, a free concert every Friday, including First Fridays.



Photo by Agnes Filipowski
Take in the view of the band and crowd at Fridays after Five in the Downtown Mall.

Head to the Downtown Mall on a summer night, take in a few art exhibits, watch some live music, and bring your own picnic or try one of the food trucks that regularly attend the event. What more could a broke culture-seeking college student ask for!


Charlottesville art exhibits

Second Street Gallery:

Can’t Shake It

Did you see a polar bear wandering around the Downtown Mall between June 2-6?

No you did not overindulge on the beer you drank at Fridays After 5. That was artist Avery Lawrence making a role reversal statement about climate change and the possible effects of human’s “encroaching on” (or expanding into) animal’s habitats.

In his multimedia and performance exhibit, open from June 6 to July 12, Lawrence uses a blow up polar bear suit and leaf blower, among other props, to explore the meaning of “expansion” through different mediums. He seeks to explore how pushing beyond limits and comfort zones can be an uncomfortable experience, and “how by allowing our interior something’s to affect our exterior selves we make pathways toward understanding each other.”

Modern art… sometimes you just have to roll with it.



McGuffey Art Center:

McGuffey 1

Photo by Olivia Knott
Iron Sculpture by Skip Willis

The McGuffey Art Center is currently home to five exhibits of different mediums ranging from photography to watercolor, which are on display for the public from June 3-29.

My favorites included the retrospective on Skip Willis, in which his preliminary design sketches for stained glass were put up for display, as well as finished products. With this multitalented artist, the exhibit also included fascinating metal sculpture, including an Alice in Wonderland-esque growing chair.

McGuffey 2

Photo by Olivia Knott
Acrylic painting by Polly Breckenridge


Another favorite was Polly Breckenridge, who uses the same distinct human silhouette throughout her work, making it interesting to see the same figure placed throughout different settings.

Bonus: The greatest asset of the center is the resources it offers to community members. If you have any interest in becoming a better painter, sculptor, sketch artist-anything you can imagine, really- the McGuffey Art center should be your first stop for art classes of any kind.



The Fralin Museum of Art:

If you know how to navigate yourself to the fraternities on Rugby Road, then you know how to get to the Fralin. Now you have no excuse not to visit.


Photo by Olivia Knott
Fralin Art Museum is located within the Grounds of  U.Va.

“Reflections and Undercurrents, Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice 1900-1940” is on exhibit until Aug. 10. If you’ve taken an art history class, you might know that etching is an unbelievably painstaking process, and the detail that these prints display are incredible. The prints are divided into four sections dedicated to a unique aspect of Venetian life- panorama’s of the city’s grand canal and large squares, medieval Venetian architecture, gondolas, and venezia minore, a term for the areas of city that are not accessible by car and are often over looked by tourists.

Turn of the century prints make for great frat party conversation anyways, right?





Stay tuned for more summer highlights focused on music!

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Story by: Olivia Knott

Before you spend summer re-watching Friday Night Lights for the third time on Netflix (of which I am guilty), consider watching a documentary. Here are my five picks for documentaries that focus on women; while vastly different from one another, each one will inspire and make you think.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

If you’re interested in women’s global issues, this two-part documentary is an excellent place to start.

Based on the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the eponymous documentary travels through ten different countries where the film claims female oppression is at its most extreme. The documentarians spotlight women within the community who are working to change deeply ingrained cultural values in order to fight human rights violations such as sex trafficking and intergenerational prostitution. A famous actress accompanies each trip, in an effort to use their notoriety to bring attention to the issues at hand.

While at times their somewhat forced presence feels like a well-meant but ill executed attempt to attract viewers, some of the actresses, especially Diane Lane and Olivia Wilde, offer intelligent insights into a community’s struggle.

In light of recent accusations about discrepancies of the life story of Somaly Mam, one of the women profiled in the film for her work against sex slavery, this documentary has also created an interesting opportunity for dialogue about the ethics of reporting stories of trauma.

Dark Girls

Dark Girls investigates the cultural pervasiveness of colorism, prejudice based on the varying degrees of lightness or darkness of the skin, and how such prejudice exists most heavily within the black community itself.

Tracing the its roots back to survival tactics of slavery, the film focuses on the role it plays in modern society, especially in the media and the big business of skin lightening treatments, ultimately examining how these factors affect a woman’s self-worth and relationships with others, especially romantically and as a parent.

Follow up this documentary with Lupita Nyong’o’s poignant speech at the Essence Magazine Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon about searching for role models in the media and discovering the meaning of true beauty.

Shely Wright: Wish Me Away

After denying her sexuality for most of her life, Shely Wright: Wish Me Away follows the coming out story of a singer working in the deeply conservative country music industry.

The film documents her difficult task of navigating the inextricable relationship between Christianity, her music genre and fan base. The highlights of this documentary are Shely’s home videos made in the time leading up to her public coming out where we see her at her most honest, as well as her relationship with her sister and father, her steadfast support system as she prepares to tell 8 million fans, including her own mother, that she is lesbian.

What the film lacks in its artistic execution, it surely makes up for in its emotional power.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel

Told with fabulously charming candor, Diana Vreeland narrates her ascent to fashion stardom as fashion editor for “Harpers Bazaar,” editor in chief for “Vogue,” and then a consultant for the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Before Anna Wintour, this visionary force behind “Vogue” turned the magazine into a cutting edge publication in the 1960s, using fashion spreads to tell stories, making the December issue her creative brainchild. Once deemed an ugly duckling by her mother, Vreeland proves that drive, wit and intelligence are what make a woman beautiful.

Full of quotable one-liners, here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Style is everything… Without it, you’re nobody… and I’m not talking about a bunch of clothes.”
  • “She made it OK for women to be ambitious, for women to be outlandish, to be extraordinary and for women to garner attention.”
  • “Ravishing personalities are the most interesting things in the world.”

I couldn’t agree more.

20 Feet from Stardom

My favorite pick, this documentary gives a well-deserved face to the powerhouse voices of black female back-up singers, women who have made a career out of standing behind music’s superstars.

The documentary tackles the question: “Why, despite their efforts, didn’t these extraordinarily talented women succeed as solo artists?” The wisdom and humility with which these women recount their careers reveals a love of music in its purest form, transcendent beyond the temperamental demands of show business that in many ways hindered their ability to expand their careers.

A reminder that a life of performing is at its core about passion for your art, this is a must see for any aspiring entertainer.

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Story by: Olivia Knott

I have no idea what I am doing.

While I applaud those who take this as a challenge to further engage themselves in the U.Va. community to find out what they want from school and life, I shamefully admit that for me, this panic-inducing uncertainty has manifested itself in academic disinterest.

I’ve continually thought to myself, “just get through college, you can always figure out what you want after.” Yet with my college years passing by, it is no longer possible to ignore wasting my passion for learning with my parents’ and my own money to “just get through.”

If forging full speed ahead to finish my education is not the answer to finding some sort of self-purpose, then perhaps taking a step back will provide me with the greater sense of clarity that I desire. What if I… dare I consider it? Take time off.

When the majority of your peers plan on graduating in a tidy and linear four years, the decision to put your formal education on hold at any point is a daunting one, a choice you hope results in a meaningful life experience. Cue the spiritually enlightening backpacking trip through the Himalayas, right?

A recent New York Times article on the costliness of gap year programs notes that, “American gap year programs… run to $10,000 and up for about three months,” a cost that can quickly add up. The article cites the growing popularity of USA Gap Year Fairs, which provide students with resources to a variety of programs, including Thinking Beyond Borders, whose yearlong program costs a whopping $29,500 before even including airfare. And here I thought I wanted to save my parents’ money while on my East Asian adventure…

However, the self-reflection desired during time off from school can begin at very little cost, through opportunities in your hometown. Boston native Caitlin Kingston, a rising third year, chose to take a gap year before beginning college, using her freedom to foster one of her passions: the culinary arts.

“I’ve always loved baking and food. It was weird because I had never thought of that as something for me to do, but once I did, it seemed so obvious,” she said.

After finding a list of the 50 best restaurants in Boston, she contacted numerous and spent part of her gap year shadowing the different aspects of fine dining in some of the most critically acclaimed kitchens in the city.

Alanna Fagan, now a third year English and Spanish double major, admits that her first year, “in the fall, everything was new” but by spring, she “[…] just got overwhelmed coming to such a big school and got lost in the whole social part.” She decided to take off the following summer and fall semester, moving to Peru through Ubelong, a volunteer program she discovered in a social entrepreneurship class at U.Va.

She cites the strength of the program, in that it was about “social benefit, rather than commerce based.” The program places volunteers individually throughout the world, based on their area of interest. Fagan spent the next two months teaching preschool, while staying in a volunteer hostel.

“I ended up paying about $800 for two months of living, including meals, which is ridiculous because that’s [similar to] one month’s rent in Charlottesville!”

Both Kingston and Fagan sought out experiences that maintained the refreshing adventure desired from a gap year in an economically obtainable way, and more so greatly benefitted from the discipline of work ethic that they continued to utilize while not in formal schooling.

These types of experiences gave the young women unique insights as they entered university at different periods of life.

After her year off and strongly considering obtaining a degree specializing in the hospitality industry, Kingston finally chose U.Va. for its comprehensive liberal arts curriculum. Working at a vineyard, Kingston still remains devoted to her foodie interests, but has chosen to pursue her interest in arts and community involvement through an arts administration degree.

However, she cites the events of her gap year as integral to “having a break to learn what I wanted to learn and re-appreciating education” and importantly, “learning to appreciate different kinds of education.”

“As cliché as this sounds [Charlottesville] is a bubble, and breaking through that was refreshing,” said Fagan about her time in Peru. “There was so much out there that I had not even dreamed about.”

Photo Courtesy of Alanna Fagan Fagan visits Machu Pichu during her gap year in Peru.

Photo Courtesy of Alanna Fagan
Fagan visited Machu Pichu during her time in Peru.

Following that summer, Fagan returned home to work as a server for six months. After experiencing working full-time in the service industry, Fagan admits that the uncertainty of such a fluctuating line of work made her realize that “I took my education for granted, and that changed so much when I was home.”

Hands-on experience might just be the kick-start I need to better envision how my academic goals will help turn my interests into actual career possibilities. I always imagined myself working in entertainment in some capacity, and have recently begun to look into programs such as BBC work experience.

Kingston and Fagan both cited a fear of lack of community upon leaving school. Yet, Kingston noted that the greatest benefit she received from her time off was that, “you learn to be comfortable being alone. Which is good because you’re the only person you’re going to be with for the rest of your life.”

Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Kingston Kingston visited Diamond Head State Park, while working in Hawaii for five weeks during her gap year.

Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Kingston
Kingston visited Diamond Head State Park, while working in Hawaii for five weeks during her gap year.

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Mean Girls


1.  “Mean Girls,” 2004

Based in part on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, this 21st-century classic defined the middle school years of a generation of current 20-somethings. Part social commentary on female high school cliques, part Tina Fey, Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams at their best (and cattiest), “Mean Girls” is the quintessential story of girls behaving badly. The real message of the movie, however, is the value of friendship and the understanding that words do hurt. Cady Herron’s transformation from home-schooled transfer student to “mean girl” to finally finding her identity leads her to discover how far being kind to one another truly goes—a lesson we could all stand to learn.

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