art seen: 2015 progressive party.

The rest of the shots from the Arts Council’s 2015 Progressive Party. What fun!!

burgProgressiveWEB02 burgProgressiveWEB05 burgProgressiveWEB08 burgProgressiveWEB12 burgProgressiveWEB14 burgProgressiveWEB21 burgProgressiveWEB26 burgProgressiveWEB27 burgProgressiveWEB32-2 burgProgressiveWEB64 burgProgressiveWEB69 burgProgressiveWEB79Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

royal treatment: 2015 progressive party.

burgProgressiveWEB01An hour before the event, I finished mowing the lawn for what I PRAY is the last time this year. Twenty miles away, Brandy was likely folding something, or mopping something, or editing something. Yet somehow, without the help of mice, bluebirds, or a magic wand, we managed to slink into our fancy duds, drape our skin in jewels, and apply a fine sheen of lip gloss in anticipation of a fairy tale evening — the Arts Council’s Annual Progressive Party! The purpose of the Progressive Party is simple — to celebrate the arts and raise funds so the Council can continue to provide art opportunities to the Harrisonburg community through Court Square TheaterAdvancing the Arts GrantsFirst Fridays Downtown, Smith House Gallery exhibitions, and community-based collaborations.

This year’s theme (Your Artistic Adventure: the Progressive Party with a Twist) sent guests on a two-destination journey: the dazzling home of Dan Newberry for the event launch party, and then one of seven host homes for more merrymaking.

burgProgressiveWEB31At Dan’s, we all converged to hear the music of Kelly May Brown, meet the evening’s featured artists, enjoy beverages from Pale Fire Brewing and Vintage Wines, and indulge in appetizers provided by A Little Something Special. Of particular note were the jelly “flight” and the butter “flight” — assortments of both spreads to be sampled on bread and crackers. One even tasted like bacon. Who knew this was a thing?

burgProgressiveWEB41 burgProgressiveWEB04 burgProgressiveWEB28burgProgressiveWEB47We Cinderellas were also excited about the raffle drawing for a diamond from James McHone and custom setting from Hugo Kohl. After a lovely cocktail hour on luxurious property, everyone loaded up in their chariots and proceeded to one of the seven host homes, each of which had live music and the work of a featured artist. Brandy and I got the royal treatment when we were permitted to go to TWO homes! We ate like Queens!

We were so excited when we arrived at our first home, owned by the charming Randy Harman, to see our smiling friend, Praserth Saesow of Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, who had prepared this incredible feast. Floral decorations by Teri Dean of The Wishing Well accentuated the beautiful art work of Wendy Lam. Live music by Moon (based in Staunton) floated toward the vaulted ceilings and filled the space, while conversations flourished.

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4385 burgProgressiveWEB58burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4371 burgProgressiveWEB62 ProgressiveWEB56-2burgProgressiveWEB57 burgProgressiveWEB63With one eye on the clock, we wolfed down a second plate of Praserth’s food and headed to our next, and final, destination: the home of Rob and Peggy McKearney, where we were completely spoiled with beef and pork tenderloin, salmon, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. At one point, Brandy was double fisting with macaroons. Erin Murray’s vivid and too-real-to-be-real paintings spoke to us all, and Chad Hanger crooned from the living room. I swear, his voice is somehow better every time I hear him. All of it at that house — so rich and alive!

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4403 burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4423 burgProgressiveWEB68 burgProgressiveWEB73 burgProgressiveWEB74 burgProgressiveWEB82burgProgressiveWEB71Before we knew it, it was time to click our heels and get home before our babysitters turned into pumpkins (there might be a mix-up in there). And so we dashed out into the night, while the music and laughter receded in the rearview mirror.

We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed this enchanted evening. Everyone involved loves and actively supports the arts in our community, demonstrated by their selfless gifts of time, hospitality, talent, and dollars that will allow for continued growth of the Council’s initiatives. After all, beautiful things must be constantly sown and tended. Art, and the proliferation of it, takes diligence and commitment.

Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

UNbelievable: UNjuried exhibition.

Just a quick update about how this show turned out.

So after inviting anyone who was interested to submit a piece of art to the unJURIED Exhibition at Darrin-McHone Gallery, curator Jon Henry ended up with 59 pieces! Except that… well, 59… it’s so… I mean, any number that ends in “9” is just somehow irritating. Fifty-nine, really?!  And then someone showed up with a recipe scribbled on a sticky note — found art — and made it an even 60, thank gahd.

The show opened March 6th to a warm crowd of curious spectators. Art of all kinds hung on the walls, draped over windows, and stood on the floor, art made by artists and amateurs, children and adults, everyone and anyone. Spectators received a program that listed all sixty artists, the titles of their works, and the prices if they were for sale, some as low as $10, some as high as $900  — all priceless.

The show will be up until the end of March! Get there soon and feast your eyeballs!

unjuried1 unjuried2 unjuried3Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all in: UNjuried exhibition.

burgIMG_6466In 1917, Marcel Duchamp submitted to the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists an unusual piece of art called “Fountain.” It was really just a urinal turned on its side and autographed. The work should have been accepted, since the show was open to anyone who had paid the $1 fee, but it proved too controversial and was rejected. Today that urinal is considered one of the most influential pieces of art ever created because it asks the fundamental question, “What is art?”

And that influence has inspired an exhibition here in the Burg, opening this Friday, March 6. It’s called the unJuried Exhibition – all art work will be accepted, no matter what. Any medium, any object, anything that can be hung on the wall.

If you’re interested in participating, you can still submit: today 11am – 1pm, tomorrow 9am – 11am, and hours TBA on Friday.

I marvel at this idea.

Harrisonburg isn’t some art-starved, culturally bereft city where only a handful of artists ever answer a call for submissions. This place is packed with artistic folks. Locations all around town have no problem finding new art to hang each month, and juried shows with limited space can be extremely competitive – having your work accepted is a pretty big deal when you consider the odds, and so newer artists might have a hard time getting a foot in the door. But, to open the show to anyone, and everyone? All ages, all skill levels, all media? Isn’t that… dangerous?? I mean, what if the Darrin-McHone Gallery gets absolutely overrun with submissions?? What if there’s not enough wall space? What if someone submits a toilet?

I got to ask these and other questions to the show’s organizer, Jon Henry. You might already know Jon as the curator of the Old Furnace Artist Residency, a small house where artists can live for up to a month and experience the Harrisonburg art scene. Jon also collaborates with Larkin Arts for CSArts (Community Supported Arts), a program wherein, similar to a food CSA, people can buy a “share” for a set fee, then receive an original piece of art every month for several months.He’s also working on his MFA at JMU. Now Jon, a man of groundbreaking ideas, has organized this unJuried Exhibition, inspired by Duchamp’s bold submission a hundred years ago and by the idea that “everyone is an artist, and everything is art.”

So I asked him: What if you get too many submissions? What if there isn’t enough wall space? His answer? He’s excited about it. “I’m embracing it,” he said. He sat comfortably behind his laptop, accepting and recording the day’s submissions, looking as calm as a convent, completely unfazed by any calamity I was conjuring in my own mind. Plus, he assured me, other locations would display some of the pieces if Darrin-McHone filled up.

burgIMG_6448He’s all about inclusiveness. He staggered the submission times each day this week so that everyone would be able to find a time to bring their artwork to the gallery. Additionally, this system encourages diversity, as people with different lifestyles are available at different times of the day. Another interesting facet: there will be no names on the pieces of art unless the artist happened to have signed it already. Each piece will simply be numbered, and patrons can look up the artists’ names in a catalog that the Arts Council will provide. So it’s possible to view most of the exhibit without knowing whose work it is. The viewer can decide when to find out. Not only does this level the playing field and increase the feeling of community, but it creates, as Jon stated, a “visual conversation” not interrupted by labels and unnecessary words.

burgIMG_6454 burgIMG_6453When Brandy and I were there Monday, there were ten submissions so far: a sculpture, four paintings, four photos, and a mixed media piece. The show opens Friday for the public, and I can’t wait to see how many pieces there are. And if there’s a toilet. Don’t forget: you still have today, tomorrow, and Friday to submit your work and join this party! Check out the FB invitation for updates.

See you there!
burgIMG_6458Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

change of art: arts council progressive party, 2014.

burgIMG_9619 burgIMG_9625bw burgIMG_9674 burgIMG_9675 burgIMG_9680 burgIMG_9696Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

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art of the matter: arts council progressive party, 2014.

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burgIMG_9597 burgIMG_9611 burgIMG_9652 burgIMG_9717bw burgIMG_9735Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

home is where the art is: arts council progressive party, 2014.

progressive party signHarrisonburg, you know how to throw a good shin-dig. I’ve been to some that were all pulled pork and PBR. Some that were wine and cheese and silent films. Some that were champagne and eggs benedict. Some that were margaritas and enchiladas. Some that were craft beer and local food. I even hosted one that was sushi lessons and gourmet cake. But this one was something brand new.

I went to my first-ever Progressive Party with Brandy and I LOVE the concept. A progressive party is one in which guests move from one home to another to enjoy a multi-course meal. Cocktails and appetizers at one location, dinner at the next, coffee and dessert at yet another, and so on. Until a couple weeks ago, my only experience with such a thing has been at my own house. I sorta have my own version of the progressive party… snacks for the kids on the coffee table, then dinner at the kitchen table, followed by maybe a popsicle or ice cream sandwich on the porch. And cocktails for me throughout. Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “party,” but there usually is a fair amount of laughing, dancing, and spilling. And yes, I have been known to make a meal out of cheese, crackers, and rolled up salami held together with those little festive toothpicks.

Anyway, Brandy and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Arts Council’s Fourth Annual Progressive Party. Because our lives are a sitcom, the evening started out strangely. First, the people we’d invited as our “dates” for the evening both succumbed to last-minute illness. Thankfully, Brandy’s sister Brook was available, and that woman went from sweat pants to cocktail dress and drove thirty miles in like 43 minutes. Then, we weren’t sure where exactly we were going, so there’s that. That, and trying to explain the location to Brook. Once there, Brandy managed to get her purse caught in the lace of her dress and then pointed out the three holes in her pantyhose. Meanwhile, I regretted choosing to wear my “superbra” because I couldn’t stop tugging at that thing.

Now, it’s hard for a herd of 260 partiers to eat dinner at one person’s house, so this Progressive Party deviated from the norm a bit. All the guests assembled for happy hour at the home of Chuck and Geri Barker (co-hosted by Keri and Joel Davis). Their spacious home, patio, and garden perfectly accommodated all of us, and we enjoyed a lovely selection of beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres. We saw lots of friends there, like Mike and Suzi, and Lindsay and Don, and Rachel and Andrew. I complimented Patrice on her dress, and then I learned that apparently, you can RENT clothes. I mean, clothes that are not a tuxedo. You can rent a dress for an evening. And by “rent,” I don’t mean buy it, wear it, spray it with Febreze and return it for a refund the next day. I mean, you can RENT a dress. Perhaps the inventor of rent-a-dress and the inventor of the progressive party are one and the same.

progressive party lawn progressive party patio progressive party patio2At about six o’clock, we were instructed to move to our dinner location. All 260 guests were divided among roughly twenty host homes for a home-cooked meal. Brandy, Brook, and I were assigned to Meg and Bill Wightman’s. In a typical progressive party, Meg and Bill would just serve us the next course, like salad, and then we’d go to another home. But because of the crazy number of people involved in this thing, we stayed put at the Wightman’s for SIX more courses, to be deliciously outlined in the photos that follow. Prepare to drool.

While we waited for everyone in our group to arrive, we looked around their adorable home. The kitchen is gorgeous, and that coupled with Meg and Bill’s unbelievable calmness assured me we were in for a good meal. We admired precious art work by their kids, Alice and Liam, like the butter dish Alice made at You Made It. And we saw Bill’s collection of defaced dollar bills. He would buy defaced bills from the bank, rescuing them from certain shredding.

progressive party butter dish progressive party dollarsprogressive party dinner tableEveryone arrived, and to our delight, we were joined by Chuck and Geri Barker (from whose house we’d just come) and Lindsay and Don Denny. So our group consisted of Meg, Bill, Lindsay, Don, Chuck, Geri, Brook, Brandy, and me. Then the food started. First, this martini glass filled with pink snapper and mango salsa plus jalapeno — yow! Man, that was delish. They get their fish from Pickford’s Fresh Seafood — it’s overnight-ed from Hawaii!! And wine from Vintage Wines — both stores are across from Costco. Oh, and Vintage Wines has tastings on Fridays and Saturdays.

progressive party mangoNext up was spaghetti with Pecorino cheese and pork and some other things I missed because I was eating noisily. Then a salad of baby greens, homemade Hawaiian bread croutons, and goat cheese.

progressive party pastaBetween courses, we chatted about family and friends, about death and legacy (Geri’s mom had recently passed), about kids, and about nearly dying from canoe-related mishaps, which nearly everyone at the table had experienced.

progressive party gals progressive party guestsThen came THE MEAT. Omgahd, the meat. Lordy. Bill grilled these lamb chops and served them over this butternut squash, red lentil, and coconut puree, and I think there was spinach and garlic in there somewhere, and heavens-to-Betsy, it was SO SCRUMPTIOUS. And the little flatbreads with coriander chutney — Lord.

progressive party lambAfter that Meg asked, “Is anyone else hot, or is it just my stage in life?” Or maybe it’s that she’d been running in and out of the kitchen all night. At any rate, the next course cooled us off: a grapefruit champagne sorbet. And finally, dessert. A blueberry-white chocolate bread pudding with amaretto sauce. You wouldn’t believe the reaction. Everyone just wanted to move in. We all fell in love with the Wightman’s at the first bite.

progressive party bread puddingLamentably, the meal ended, even though I was stuffed to the gills and couldn’t possibly have eaten more. Except maybe one more lamb chop. Or five. At any rate, the final “course” of the progressive party was a performance by Blue Label at Court Square Theater. They played songs by artists from Elvis to Stevie Wonder to Lady Gaga. We heard “Happy” and “Footloose” and “PYT.” And people were dancing like CRAZY. I was seriously trying not to scald someone with my coffee as I wiggled my way down the aisle. And once I felt I had safely digested most of that delicious meal, Brandy, Brook and I cut a rug, too! In another part of town, in fact just a few yards away, MACRoCk was raging… but I’m pretty sure we had just as much fun.

progressive party concert1 progressive party concert2If you ever get a chance to attend the Arts Council Progressive Party, you won’t regret it. Not only will you be treated to an exquisite meal, but you’ll have warm conversations with friends old and new, you’ll get to dress up (even if you have to rent it, girl), you’ll get to hear some music and dance your feet off, and most importantly, you’ll be helping the Arts Council continue to provide Harrisonburg with meaningful art experiences. Hope to see you next time!

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all in a day’s (and a night’s) work: the 24-hour project.

24-hour project mike and laurieAfter the awesomeness of Friday at the 24-Hour Project, Brandy and I decided that Saturday we’d return, this time with Michael and some of the kiddos in tow. We scoured the program, reading through the descriptions of the 24 performances scheduled for day two, and with input from all involved, decided to try to make it to the theater in time for Mike Hudson at 1pm, because according to the program, he was “a guy you haven’t heard of” who “plays songs on the piano that you haven’t heard, in ways you haven’t heard.” Our curiosity wouldn’t allow us to miss THAT.

So after some breakneck-speed sledding down a steeper-than-we-thought hill, we raced home to put on dry clothes and then raced to Court Square Theater. We managed to score seats right up front again. I don’t know why more people don’t sit in the front row. We love the front row: I love the leg room, and Brandy likes to be able to get where she’s going without awkwardly squeezing between seats, bonking people on the back of the head with that giant lens.

Mike did exactly as promised: he played songs on the piano — some we’d never heard. A sad one called “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face” about a quiet exit from a relationship. An unusual assortment of other covers, from “Music for a Found Harmonium” (Penguin Cafe Orchestra — you might recognize it from Napoleon Dynamite) to a Belle and Sebastian song, to Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” As many times as I’ve heard that old number, I’d honestly never heard the lyrics so clearly as when Mike sang it. A primitive protest song. At one point Mike told the sound booth he’d “feel a lot more confident if I could get a little more in the monitor.” They made the adjustment, but take it from us in the front row: we detected no such lack of confidence.

The female vocal ensemble Shekinah (which means, roughly, God’s presence among the people) performed next, bringing with them only a bongo, a tambourine, and a chair. At first I thought the chair was just in case the pregnant lady needed to sit down… but no, it was for the bongo player. Brandy and I saw these ladies at the Our Community Place Christmas Concert in 2012. Cal was enthralled and loved their purple dresses. I remember he asked me if he could “pet” them. ??? Anyway, they dressed in purple on this day, too.

Shekinah proves with their voices that the human being is the greatest musical instrument in existence. I can’t understand the concentration required to do what they do. Each of them must somehow hear only herself, because each woman seems to sing a distinct part, but she must also pay attention to the group so she doesn’t veer off and end up somewhere else. Not only that, but they sang ten songs in seven different languages, including a Dolly Parton cover, a traditional Irish children’s song, a Finnish song based on Psalm 100, and a sassy Bulgarian number.

After Shekinah, we took a little break at the Explore More Children’s Museum. The beauty (well, one of the many beauties) of the 24-Hour Project is that you could come and go. When the kids finally got all their wiggles out, we returned in time to see the Ears to the Ground Family take the stage.

ears to the ground family 1Any time you get a chance to see this band, you MUST. I mean this sincerely — I can’t believe how great they sound. Beautiful harmonies, clear as bells, never a sour note, never a lackluster performance. It’s probably not a priority to be “famous” or whatever, but they totally could be.

They have a few instruments — guitar, trumpet, bongo — but they also make use of their hands and feet, shoes and skin. My favorite of their set was Nichole’s song for her mom, in which she repeats, almost chants, like a prayer, “With a love like this, I will not despair.” Also, “Prison Cells,” a song about, essentially, forgiveness (and hypocrisy) inspired by a judicial system that just won’t “let them forget what they done wrong.” And the song about time: “Why waste so much precious time when we can float downstream in the living water, be grafted to the vine?” Thank you for that reminder!

ears to the ground 2Lastly, Chris Howdyshell took the stage. Yes, he was the last performer. The closer. By this point, a certain… euphoria hung in the air. Maybe it was sheer loopiness emanating from everyone who’d been up for 24 hours. It became clear that Chris’ job was to keep everyone from keeling over in exhaustion. He was their Red Bull. And really, there’s no better person for that task.

chris howdyshell 1He sang a few songs… “He Is a Friend of Mine,” accompanied by the story of Oliver’s birth. The one for Mariana, with the Alan Watts backstory. The song about workin’ and money and family — mighta been called “Walkin’ With the Devil.” But no, it’s actually called “Happiness.” But mostly he just talked to us. He entertained with a string of meandering anecdotes, like how he once ran into Nick Melas at the community health center, and even with a mask on, Nick was the “best looking guy in the place.” He also recalled the history of Open Mic at Little Grill… let’s see, it started with Ron Copeland, then Jay Zehr hosted it, but “only for a year because he got old,” and then Chris took over in the year 2000 until he left the Grill a year or two ago to become a restaurant manager.

chris howdyshell 2Which led to a story of his near-death experience. He’s taking phlebotomy classes, and during class, students “practice” on each other, and someone accidentally pushed IN on the syringe. Chris expected to die instantly, but he didn’t (obviously)… but his hand, where the needle went in, did swell up and get huge and black and horrifying… and after that big, long story he reminded us that he “paid money for that!” And the last thing I remember was  something about a wicked book from elementary school that scarred him for LIFE.

I wonder, next year… could there be a 36-hour project? Or 48? <cringe> Or, how about this — have a 24-hour project every quarter. This one was so much fun, I’m sure people will be eager to participate and attend the next. Here’s hoping that happens soooooon!

24-hour project survivors 2Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

 

city kids: a guide to summer fun in the burg.

I don’t know about you, but during the school year, I am BUSY. And my kids are busy. The end of the year arrives none too soon, but still shockingly fast, and I often find I’m… unprepared. Come Monday, June 10, I’m going to have that “oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-with-the-kids-now” freak out. But this year, I’m determined to be prepared when they ask, “Mom, what are we going to do today?” So I’ve compiled this list — for myself, for you, for everyone who might find themselves in this predicament — of activities, camps and classes offered by Harrisonburg businesses and organizations to keep your kiddos busy allll summer long.

kids on a slip-n-slideSpitzer Art Center Children’s Workshops
Children ages 5 – 10 can sign up for one of many classes offered at the center. Register one week ahead for topics such as collage, drawing, water color, greeting cards, and more.

Larkin Arts Youth Summer Art Program
Kids ages 6 – 14 can attend week-long, 3-hour classes for $85. Classes include papier mache, sculpture, basket making, drawing, collage, photography, food art, painting, and a bunch of others.

larkin arts signArts Council of the Valley and Court Square Theater Summer Art Camp
These 3-hour, Monday to Friday classes cost $80 and include acting, characterization, script writing, choreography, improv, singing, dancing, poetry, filmmaking, comic creation, plus many more. Ages 6 – 15.

You Made It! also offers week-long camps, Monday to Friday for three hours, for $185. Ages 6 and up. Classes include clay, canvas painting, wheel throwing, pottery painting, fused glass, and several others.

kid in treeExplore More Children’s Museum offers 4-day classes, three hours per day, for ages 3 – 5th grade. Topics include LEGO engineering, Jedi training, Culinary Kids, Project Funway, Castles, Crowns and Catapults, Animal Adventures, and Construction Junction, to name a few.

kids hands holding LEGOSBlue Ridge Community College Learning Can Be Fun 
BRCC offers a zillion classes for grades K – 12, including art, music, dance, theater, culture, history, literature, nature, science, technology, sports and outdoor recreation. The classes run Monday – Friday for 3 hours each day, through the end of July.

James Madison University
JMU also boasts a large assortment of camps for summer kids, including baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, football, fencing and field hockey. They also offer band camp, diversity studies, poetry workshops, nonviolence seminars, and STEM classes.

Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation
In addition to spending some time at one of our many city parks, like Purcell, A Dream Come True, or Hillandale, your child can enjoy swimming at Westover Pool (open Monday through Saturday noon to 7pm and Sunday 1pm to 7pm) and a variety of classes. Some of their offerings include guitar, mountain biking, water adventure, adventure sports, rock climbing, rafting/kayaking, a ton of dance classes, archery, fishing, jump rope, skate boarding, and pretty much every major sport.

child in pool child at poolMassanutten Regional Library kicks off its annual Summer Reading Games, but you have to register THIS WEEK to get the free pass to the Massanutten Water Park. Other activities include Baseball Storytimes (Turks read to kids), Crafty Kids, LEGO Club, and Stitch and Knit, plus others.

RMH Wellness Center has full- or half-day camps on a weekly basis, for kids ages 4 – 11. Kids will learn about topics like dinosaurs, medieval times, the ocean, and space, plus participate in activities like swimming, rock climbing, indoor and outdoor games, playground time, crafts, fitness, and sports.

Library signYes, summer is about relaxing and decompressing after a stressful school year, but keeping your kids active will make them healthy, blah blah blah. Really, it’ll make them SLEEP WELL at night :) So sign up for something today! Consider it an investment in the sanity of your household. You’ll all be better for it.

child asleep in carCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

MISStaken identity: women in focus at court square theater.

Part Two of Four

future woman, in focus.

future woman, in focus.

The previous post, “Girl Talk,” summarizes my experience talking to women about issues facing women. It also underscores how totally confused I can get when faced with a complex topic. The remaining posts in this series — this one and two more — will explore the statistics presented in the documentary Miss Representation, the complexity of gender stereotypes, the mixed messages conveyed by the “media,” and ways of sorting it all out and moving forward. Maybe. ha ha.

I should re-iterate that this type of post is a slight departure from what we usually do, and everything you read here is what I see through my personal lens. That’s really all anyone can offer. So, I take full credit or blame for the ideas contained herein (official disclaimer).

After the Women In Focus social at the Dodger, I headed to Court Square Theater for the documentary. I must’ve gotten there earlier than I intended, because there were just a handful of people seated around me. But sure enough, just two minutes before the film was to start, a long line formed in the corridor. Now, ladies, do we have to be late for everything? And did we have to perpetuate a female stereotype at a film that explores the perpetuation of female stereotypes? So Michael Weaver politely took the stage and assured us that the film would start just as soon as they could get everyone through the ticket booth. And several women, ahem, just talked right over him. Eventually, the theater filled up: eleven men and a zillion women.

I’d like to share this synopsis from the Miss Representation web site in case you didn’t see the film:

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Writer and director Newsom, a former actress turned activist and documentary filmmaker who herself experienced debilitating body image problems, narrates the film. The film relays lots of disturbing statistics, some of which I’ll try to summarize and tie together here.

First, as a nation (according to the film), we spend more on beauty than on education. However, the film does not fully substantiate this claim. Does it mean that a lifetime of beauty products and procedures costs more than four years of college? And what if the student gets a scholarship or grant? There aren’t grants for beauty products, so I can see how those numbers might be unclear.

STILL, the statement implies that women value beauty over education, which IS a sad idea, no matter what you believe. If you believe it, then it stands to reason that, according to the film, sixty-five percent of women and girls will experience some form of eating disorder. If females value beauty so highly, then they’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve it. Newsom also implies that the MEDIA forces/conditions/brainwashes women (starting at a very young age) into valuing beauty over education. This is the part I struggle with. I think it’s safe to say that our upbringing and social/economic environments do shape our values as kids. But once we’re adults, we can choose our values, and if I value beauty over education as a grown-up, that’s my choice, not necessarily the media’s fault. What the film strives to do is make everyone aware that the media is manipulative (in many ways) and therefore, what the media “tells someone” about him or herself is not necessarily true. For many of us, this awareness occurs naturally as we age, but not for all of us. And even if we DO become aware, it’s hard to reverse the damage.

The documentary also gives statistics about females in the film industry. Only seventeen percent of protagonists in movies are female, and these roles typically “revolve around the pursuit of a man.” That IS a sad statistic, yes, but I can think of a few films where the female protagonist had an agenda other than something romantic: Jackie Brown (my all-time favorite); Million Dollar Baby; and The Silence of the Lambs, to start.

womeninfocus7The film purports that “women appear to be empowered” but any female protagonist is “very much objectified and exists for the male viewer.” Further, the film states that objectification leads to violence, like rape. I believe this to be true, but not purely in a man-objectifying-woman sense. As a culture we’ve become object-oriented and materialistic, and many times we mistreat others because of our view that they’re somehow disposable. We’re all collectively guilty of that. However, just because a man sees a sexy or scantily clad woman in a movie does not mean he’ll commit a violent crime. Plus, that would suggest that by wearing provocative clothing, women are “asking for it.” I don’t think Beyoncé was promoting rape during her half time show.

So, how is all this objectification occurring? Well, according to Miss Representation, women comprise only three percent of people in “positions of clout” in telecom professions. Essentially, men are the “puppeteers” and women are the “puppets.” But let’s not forget — women are accepting the Hollywood roles that they themselves are objecting to… right? I mean, women are PAID money to portray certain characters, who might then have a negative effect on a female audience. We can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths. A woman can’t rail against the chauvinism of a Hollywood film AND be its leading lady. I’m not an actress, but I do wear makeup. If makeup is a problem (and if you’ve seen a mascara commercial recently, you’ll probably agree that it IS a problem), then I am part of that problem. I am contributing to it by purchasing the product. The film, and the web site, asks us — all of us — to stop purchasing products that contribute to objectification in this way, very much like the way we’ve evolved to avoid products that harm animals or the environment. I can’t disagree with that philosophy.

But, I like makeup. I like feeling pretty. I like getting compliments. That doesn’t happen when I leave the house without my face on. Clearly, I am contributing to my own objectification and that of others. Uuuuuuugh. Like I need more to feel guilty about.

To me, all this data adds up to a bunch of mixed messages, which the film also explores, and which I’ll delve into next time. Thanks for reading. Please offer your comments! We are lucky to live in a nation where we can openly discuss topics like this, and we are doubly lucky to inhabit a city that encourages social debate, awareness, and progress. Thanks again to our Court Square Theater for unearthing the discussion.

artfuldodger2Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

girl talk: women in focus at the court square theater.

Part One of Four (yes, I’m serious.)

Well, what a night this was. One that dredged up all sorts of psycho-emotional sludge I try to pretend no longer exists… stuff that, at age forty, I should be beyond, I guess. And so what started as a pleasurable outing with several ladies of the ‘burg, our conversations meandering innocently enough, turned quickly and unexpectedly to doubt about my ability to “successfully raise” two children, anger and shock, dismay at my evolution as a human being, and sadness that as a woman, maybe I haven’t “come a long way, baby,” and really, I have no one to blame but myself. As I work through my notes about the Women In Focus social at the Artful Dodger and the documentary Miss Representation hosted by Court Square Theater, I see they reveal a disappointing truth. Warning: this is the first ever potentially offensive ilovemyburg.com post, lol. And, the views expressed in this post are solely mine… unless you agree with me, which would reeaally make me less nervous right about now.

Women In Focus was a celebration of women’s stories hosted by the Court Square Theater, featuring presentations of Miss Representation, a documentary about women and the media; North Country, a film starring Charlize Theron as a mine worker; and The Vagina Monologues. The series kicked off with a social at the Artful Dodger. Lots of ladies, and men who love and admire them, attended – including several strong female members of our community, like Sara Christensen, owner of The Lady Jane, Lara Mack (she’s back!), Alice Wheeler, Ashley Hunter, Laurie Benade, Suzi Carter, and several others.

womeninfocus3

event organizer, Laurie Benade! Bravo!

womeninfocus4 Brandy, Sara, and I got on the topic of Condoleezza Rice, and how some magazine called her a dominatrix because of her outfit – forget the fact that this highly educated woman was at one time the US Secretary of State and that she could smoke your butt on Jeopardy. Somehow her outfit that day smacked of sexual power (not intellectual or political power)… even though she was not at all dressed in a manner one might call “provocative.” Then we talked about what THAT means – dressing in a provocative or promiscuous way… and then the question was posed: can a man dress promiscuously?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What would that look like? Low-slung pants? Tight pants? No pants? No shirt? And would a man look at another man’s outfit and say, “Look at that slut!”? Then again, when did “we” (whoever that is) decide that any type of attire is bad or inappropriate? I know I am uncomfortable showing a lot of skin, but I don’t know WHY I am. Gosh, this is confusing. But somehow, in terms of women’s fashion, most people equate conservative dress with frigidity/prudishness, and revealing dress with promiscuity/porn stardom.

This led to a discussion of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. My kids and I watched the Superbowl. My daughter watched the game with great interest, and when Beyoncé performed at halftime, she made no mention of Beyoncé’s outfit, but rather remarked about the TV screen dance floor and “cool special effects.” My son, who for the entire first half of the game ran in circles around the family room, wearing a cape and underpants and wildly waving a foam sword, had a different reaction. He sat down and watched her performance, every second of it, mouth open, eyes fixed on the TV. He dreamily said, “Mom, she’s shaking her body” and “Why is she only wearing her underwear? Isn’t she cold?” Now, these are children, and I didn’t coach either of their responses –these were their natural reactions to Beyoncé’s show. Interesting. And I really don’t know what conclusions can be drawn from it. My son seems to admire the female form.

Okay.

My daughter complimented her singing and did notice that Beyoncé’s entire band was female. But neither of them criticized her. What were the adult viewers thinking? Did the men ignore her talent and dedication and only see her thighs? Did the women also ignore those things and secretly hate her thighs? Geez. Now I sound like some kind of feminist. Or chauvinist. Or alarmist. Or extremist. Or maybe just a polite receptionist. I don’t even know.

Later, as the effects of this evening sank in, I wondered… should I have told my six-year-old son not to have stared at Beyoncé? Would that have shone a light on something beyond the scope of his kindergarten mind? Am I a bad mom for letting him – or both kids – see it? By doing so, have I created in my daughter a self-destructive habit of comparing herself to others? Egads. Beyoncé is a beautiful woman – yes – she’s also talented and successful, whether you like her music or don’t. Can we praise her and condemn her in the same breath?

And so I think about what I want to impart to my children. My kids see what many people don’t see – they see me in the morning, with my pale face and crow’s feet, my rumpled, frizzy hair, no makeup, frumpy bathrobe – they see me in the raw. But they also see me prepare to leave the house, in full hair and makeup and appropriate under- and outer garments. Am I silently teaching them something I don’t want to – that I am ashamed to leave the house without my mask?

womeninfocus6As I reread this post now, I see how confused I am. Or was on that night. Or still am, because I’m not done thinking about it. I even noticed the “lol” I typed earlier, like I’m apologizing for having an opinion someone might disagree with. If I were a man, would I have typed that “lol” ?

Lol.

A thousand words, and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the documentary yet. Also, the word “Beyoncé” starts to sound weird when you’ve read it/written it 27 times. Okay, I’m taking a break to watch something with Will Ferrell in it. I’ll be back with more heavy stuff soon. Stay tuned for part two.

PS–a big thank you to Court Square Theater for bringing these issues to the forefront, as uncomfortable as they might be sometimes. And to the Artful Dodger for letting us hang out.

Copyright © 2012 – 13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

building from the heART: art in the park, northend greenway, and blake somers.

If people seem in these photos to be dressed funny, there’s a reason, and I’ll get to it. But first, let me take you back to the night I first heard The Greatest Idea Ever Hatched by a Ten-Year-Old Kid. (Actually, he was nine at the time.)

Back in May, Brandy and I attended the final meeting of Ignite! Harrisonburg to present our blog to the other attendees there and get some feedback. It went fine. But what I didn’t know was happening that night, and I’m sooooo glad my kids were there to witness it, was that cute, little SUPER-BRAVE Blake Somers was giving a presentation about his own idea for our community. Which is (drums rolling)… a giant memorial ribbon sculpture made entirely of Legos and painted pink in honor of his grandmother, Peggy Somers, who succumbed to breast cancer last summer. When it’s finished, the sculpture will be on display on Harrisonburg’s soon-to-exist Northend Greenway. Of course, most of us were sobbing at the end of his presentation, and he won the People’s Choice Award that night, beating out his own mom. Twice. :) And my kids hugged and high-fived him to pieces and cheered his name in the car the whole way home.

Since then Blake’s been busy scrounging for Legos here and there to amass a collection large enough to build his vision. And he’s getting there.

His most recent Lego-raising endeavor was at Art in the Park this past Saturday. Art in the Park is a monthly event hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley. The goal is to explore social issues through art, and it’s aimed at kids. The next one will be August 25.

This past Saturday, Blake Somers hosted the event. Kids came to build with Legos provided by the Arts Council of the Valley and to drop off any donations. Sharing the event was the Northend Greenway and Suzi Carter. She was there to inform the public about the Greenway: where it’ll be, what it’s for, and when it’ll happen. Personally, I can’t wait for the Greenway–it’s an awesome way to preserve green space, it’s a great use of that land, and it’s one more thing that will make Harrisonburg special. Another reason to love my burg.

Okay, so getting back to the funny clothes. I don’t know if any of you remember Saturday and the weather forecast, but it was calling for upper 70s and a thirty percent chance of rain. So we all dressed in short sleeves and flip flops with no umbrellas or rain coats… and it was a truly icky morning.

I got downtown with the kids at about 8:20 (Art in the Park started at 9) because I wanted to get a few things at the Market first. Sheesh! It was rainy and chilly and windy… people were all huddled up under whatever they could find, and Tom’s coffee stand was slammed. I bought a couple of pairs of earrings from Jan Carter, and she was trying to rig some kind of multiple-umbrella rain barrier because she was getting literally sprayed with rain, the little bitty stinging kind. Ick! So before the kids and I walked over to Art in the Park, we went back to the car in search of more layers. I happened to have a bag of clothing for Good Will in the back of the car, and I was able to grab a sweater or two and a couple of long-sleeve shirts to offer other shivering people. Sarah Murphy had several coats in her car, too, so we managed to get warmed up. Hence the “layered look” you see in some of the photos.

Then we pitched tents. The Arts Council had a couple, and Suzi had a couple, and soon we were all snuggled under there with our strange outfits. And the humidity was causing my Ronald McDonald hair to come out, but I had coffee and Legos and friends, so all was good. And there was even an amusement park feeling because every so often, too much rain would collect on top of the tent and then suddenly splash down on the lucky person who happened to be sitting there or walking by at that moment.

People came and went, playing with Legos (they were building Lego flowers for a garden) and chatting, and even blowing bubbles, which remained on the grass for quite some time, because of (we hypothesized) the moisture and low pressure. At one point two different conversations morphed into one and I swore I heard someone say, “In school you lose all of your youth through your head.” In reality it was probably “all your heat through your head,” but the other statement is equally true (I know, I’m a teacher)… and that’s why grown-ups like Legos, too.

Toward the end of the event, the Daily News Record arrived to interview Blake. The story was in yesterday’s paper; if you missed it, you can go to their website and, for a limited time, search for Blake Somers. Hopefully, the news exposure will bring in some Lego donations. Just so you know, Blake plans to donate to charity any Legos that don’t make it into the sculpture. So this week, rattle around in your attic or garage, call your parents, negotiate with your own children, and see if you can get your hands on some Legos for Blake. If you can, please drop them off between eleven and five at the Arts Council, located at 311 South Main Street. While you’re there, be sure to see the Lego garden created by Harrisonburg kids that day. Or if that doesn’t suit, you can email Brandy at brandysomersphotography@gmail.com to make other arrangements. And then YOU can have a part in a memorial that’s meaningful to our community and to one really special kid.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

come rain and come shine no. 25: first friday.


‘Twas the First Friday in June and all through the city
the stores and establishments were decorated all pretty
with artwork created by talented locals.
So I grabbed my umbrella and put on my bifocals.

The clouds rolling in at us taunted and frowned,
but they didn’t keep people from walking around.
I parked in the deck and briskly headed for one
of my favorite stores, The Yellow Button.

A rumble here, a sprinkle there would never prevent
us from hosting our first I Love My Burg/Brandy Somers Photography event.
Seeing all the photos finally printed was such a delight,
and really, for me, the best part of the night.

Brandy’s photos were hung by the stockings and dresses,
each one a testament to her camera successes.
My attention meandered for a sec, I admit…
when I saw this green frock and said, “I’ve GOT to have it.”

Sweet truffles from Zest! sat on a tray
next to iced tea, pretzel chips, and guacamol-ay.
And just as we’d hoped, just a bit after five,
the first of our customers began to arrive.

First was Sarah Murphy, who swept into the shop
carrying three naked baguettes–a strange photo op
for three modest girls in poses of debauchery…
then I ripped the bread in pieces: my kids were hungry!

Distracted by what sounded like a serious scuffle,
I had to diffuse my kids’ fight over a dropped truffle.
While Sarah and Brandy were fencing with bread,
in strolled Amy from Many Nights Ahead
with her friend Bailey, who’s a photographer, too.
I was thankful the fight scenes were finally through.

People came, people ate, people drank and got stickers.
They dressed up in outfits that were truly ridickers.
And then Brandy quickly took all of their pictures.

We saw Ellie from Zest! and Brent Levy from RISE,
with his playful wife Natalie in a crazy disguise.
Valeri managed to traverse the treacherous three feet
between Ten Thousand Villages and Miranda’s retreat…
She just really, really wanted something sweet.

Oh, and Seth Crissman–the knight in soggy armor
who retrieved wife Theresa from the front of Explore More.
He gallantly showed that chivalry exists,
sheltering from the rain his wife and two guests
and still dressing up silly with very few protests.

At seven p.m., the rain had not at all abated,
so the kids sat out back and silently waited
for me to dart through the flooded downtown
and get to the car, and drive it around
which I did, so we could see Elliott Downs.

We were wet, we were cold, and we were dog tired,
but, by golly, we were also truly inspired
by the number of dripping wet fans that we saw
Still walking through town to gaze in quiet awe,

Not caring that their wet jeans felt like wool,
or that their hair looked really uncool…
Seeing them participate no matter what
reminded us what a cool town we’ve got.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

har-har harrisonburg no. 24: no strings attached.

There’s something about improvisational comedians that appeals to us all. Maybe it’s that we’re impressed by how quick on the trigger they are. Maybe it’s that they are MacGyvers of comedy, creating humor out of some random words, a feather boa, a Q-tip, and a plunger. Still maybe it’s that they find themselves squirming in the most uncomfortable situations but manage to emerge without anything exploding. Or perhaps it’s that improv comedy is a reflection of life itself–the beautifully strange daily occurrences in all our lives.We are all improv comedians (or tragedians) in that way.

Still, it’s fun to go out and see people act ridiculous.

On a warm May evening, Brandy and I took her kids to see a performance by No Strings Attached, Harrisonburg’s own improv comedy troupe. The performance was at Plan B, a cute, little BIG coffee house in Broadway. I was glad to finally see that place. Spacious and comfortable, it houses a mix of modern and vintage mid-century furnishings, two bars, a toy area for kids (or whomever, really), and a cozy fireplace. They also display lots of local artwork–some for sale–and they use real plates, mugs, and silverware–nothing disposable. It just feels good in there.

No Strings Attached, starring (on this night) Rachel Jenner, Tony Lopez, James Oates, Steve McClay, Jeremiah Meadows, and Gbenga Adekunle, took the stage at about 7pm for a two-hour set and were introduced by an employee of the establishment who sat at the sound booth. Brandy had a weird Wizard of Oz moment as she looked around for the source of that voice. “…Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Except there were no flames or any giant, misshapen, green heads.

Rachel explained a few things to the spectators. First, all their material is unrehearsed and supplied by the audience. Second, they often ask for volunteers to assist on stage, and she insisted that “if we ask for volunteers, it’s to make us look stupid, not you.” Hm. I happen to believe in “stupid by association,” but okay.

Then the show started. And although I’ve seen them before, I’m familiar with what they do, and I was all equipped with my notebook and pen, I’ve never tried to take notes at one of their performances–and it was a nightmare. Everything happened and changed so fast, and nothing made sense for more than like a minute and by the time I wrote anything down, it had morphed into something else, plus I kept getting distracted by the performance itself, PLUS I was laughing my butt off at times… so my notes are but a random collection of… weirdness. Like, “Remember that dog that was licking on it?” And, “Why am I supporting his head? He’s dead.”

???

I remember that those two lines came from the same skit, but I have no idea what the skit was about.

My favorite part of the night was a charades-like game where the group asked the audience for two adjectives and two nouns. They got “transcendental” and “photogenic,” and “dog” and “sponge.” The group divided into two teams. One team had to mime “photogenic dog” to Gbenga and get him to say it, and the other had to act out “transcendental sponge” and get Steve to guess it. WHAT?! And as they guessed out loud at each other, Steve and Gbenga were actually hurling really bizarre insults at one another. Now, get ready to write some of these down for future use:
“You’re modular.”
“You’re circular.”
“You’re a transcendentalist square.”
“You’re a transcendentalist nerd.”
“You’re a fixture.” ???
“You’re a person that’s not a king.”
“You get smaller and you go through the air and your eye pops out.”
Okay, so maybe you had to be there.

Steve, puh-leeeeez UNDERSTAND this!

Somehow Steve got “transcendental sponge” before Gbenga guessed “photogenic dog.” Here’s how to act out “transcendental,” in case you ever need to:
1) Act like a train. (trans)
2) Hold up ten fingers. (cen)
3) Act like you’re at the dentist. (dental)
Voila!

And for sponge:
1) Pretend to wash dishes.
2) Pretend to wash a car.
3) Pretend to wash a dog.
4) Act out an ocean floor scene.
5) Get frustrated.
6) Do lots of squeezing motions with your hands.
7) When your partner STILL doesn’t get it (ugh, Steve!!), do lunges, and somehow that’ll work.

I’m sure between the photos and this entry you have a crystal clear picture of what to expect when you go see No Strings Attached. Ha. Catch them on Harrisonburg’s next First Friday at Downtown 34, and be sure to like them on Facebook to stay informed of other upcoming performances. Prepare to giggle, snort, cringe, guffaw, squirm, gasp, and possibly even sneeze. I’m sure it’ll be excruciatingly uncomfortable and side-splittingly funny for all involved!

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

treasure hunt in the burg no. 16: first friday.

When I thought of the title for this post, I got all excited about the pirate jokes I could make. But I don’t want my corniness to get on everyone’s nerves, so I’ll just say a few words and then leave it alone: Booty. “Mate.” Poop deck. Ho. Spanker. There–what a relief.

No, this post isn’t about swashbuckling ruffians who pillage innocent communities; it’s about a bounty of people who, through their unique vision, give to our community in beautiful ways.

Brandy and I attended the first First Friday of the season on… well, the first Friday in April. It also happened to be MaCRoCk weekend, so downtown was very much alive and swarmy. Throngy. But in a festive way, not in a Walmart-the-day-before-Thanksgiving way.

First Friday is a free and family-friendly celebration of culture and community hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley. From 5 – 8pm on the first Friday of each month, you can stroll through downtown Harrisonburg and enjoy numerous art exhibits and performances. What results is a treasure hunt of sorts, seeking out the art featured at various locations. What we also discovered, however, is that the artists themselves are local treasures.

Friendly City Food Co-op
Meet Pat Jarrett–a guy who would make any self-respecting pirate quake in his boot. Why? Because he’s the president and founder of the Beard and Mustache Society of the Blue Ridge. (It’s true, people–it’s on Facebook.)

His colorful photos hung throughout the store and included subjects such as Swiss chard, peaches, apples, bread, cows at night, and a guy named Steve wearing plaid flannel and manhandling a carcass of some sort. But my favorite was the photo of the guy holding his rooster, next to a description of the Low and Slow philosophy of meat cooking. I’d say holding your rooster against your body until he’s cooked is plenty slow. Seriously, Pat’s eye for the sumptuous beauty of daily life is what makes him a local treasure.

Ten Thousand Villages
I’ve seen several of April Sedeen‘s paintings before–usually large, striking portraits with bold lines and colors–but I was not expecting to see framed “doodles” (as she calls them) when I entered Ten Thousand Villages. Yet there they were, all lined up in rows and columns along the wall. Who knew this jewel-eyed lass was soooo funny?

So I sat on a giant stack of rugs and laughed my butt off at her doodles. Like the one that’s just a dot, entitled “Modern Art.” Or the one of the king standing next to a toilet–“Royal Flush.” Or this one, where the veggies are eating humans.
I wanted all of them, displayed in my house just as they were that day. If you want daily doodles (and, I mean, who doesn’t??), you can like her Facebook page Doodle Du Jour.

Wonder
The next local treasure we encountered was Sarah Murphy. That woman supports everything in this town. I see her everywhere. For three years, Sarah has organized the Art Auction for Haiti–a sale of local art that benefits St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Gonâve, Haiti. Artists donated their work, others bid on it, and as there were no costs associated with the auction, all proceeds–nearly $1000–went straight to the orphanage. Everyone involved–Sarah, the artists, and the buyers–are treasures.
A side note: The art was displayed in this hallway that runs the length of the store. I never knew that was there! Ya learn somethin’ new… Brandy managed to win Kevin Edwards’ “Turd Piece” (sorry, Kevin, that’s the information I got) AND, Elliott Downs has opened a record shop inside Wonder (post forthcoming!). I saw sooooo many good albums there, including the Molly Hatchet one I had in 5th grade. Why did I like them? Because they look like pirates. Or Vikings. On horses.

The Yellow Button–post forthcoming!
Meet Nicole Martorana, a writer/photographer/videographer who’s dabbled in just about every art-related line of work, including stints at Harrisonburg Tourism, Court Square Theater, the Arts Council of the Valley, and now the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. Still she finds time for her photography, beautifully displayed at the Yellow Button.

Her exhibit included pieces from an ongoing project called Show Your Face. During each exhibit, she takes polaroids of people who’ve come to see it, asks them to write short descriptions of themselves, frames the snapshots, and adds them to the collection for future display. If you’d like to see or participate in the exhibit, you can find Nicole at the RubyRed Shoe Boutique on Friday, May 4.
The Lady Jane
And there was Sara Christensen, the lovely, knowledgeable proprietor of The Lady Jane, who could tame an entire fleet of scallywags with one batch of brownies and sew a Jolly Roger better than any wench in town. Her exhibit was unlike the others in that it was not only aesthetically pleasing but also instructional. It reflected what she does for a living every day. She called the exhibit a “Mood Board,” and it was a collection of design elements (fabrics, colors, pictures of furniture, etc.) that revolved around a certain theme or style (in this case it was Rustic Vintage meets English Cottage). It’s a simple way to teach design to customers, and she even provided handouts containing advice and other resources.

Mint
Alas, our treasure hunt is nearly complete. But Harrisonburg would not be the treasure trove it is without Denise Kanter-Allen. You know how when you’ve been indoors in the air conditioning for several hours on a warm day, and you’re starting to get a little chilly, how good it feels to get in your warm car? That’s how it feels to be around Denise. Warm. Welcoming. Relaxed. She’s always open to collaborating with others and supporting other artists–she’s done joint art shows with Brandy, Elliott Downs, and Lynda Bostrom, to name a few. And she and Brandy are responsible for Harrisonburg’s first Art Lotto.

Her gorgeous collection of paintings called Leap is still on display at Mint, through the end of the month. All of the paintings feature people jumping for some reason… Brandy’s daughter Ella jumping on the trampoline, Denise herself jumping into the Aegean Sea (no doubt to welcome the pirates ashore), among others, all of which convey beautiful grace and movement.


And that concluded our search for hidden treasure; the next First Friday is Friday, May 4. We came home with a chest full of precious memories, lasting impressions, and meaningful encounters… all given freely by our priceless Harrisonburg.

Harrisonb-ARGH. Ha.

Sorry.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.