In Case You Missed It —
A number of attendees requested copies of the remarks I made at our Annual Celebration of the Arts event at Light House Studio last week. They are printed below. I hope you enjoy.
“Thank you all for attending our annual fundraising event in celebration of the arts in our community. It is an honor that, in the midst of a presidential campaign, where so much is at stake, so many of you would come out to support our efforts to change the House of Delegates.
Thank you to Light House for all the wonderful work that you have done over the years to bring the magic of film, digital, and media production to so many young people in our community. And thank you especially for what you, your board, and your supporters, have done to bring this wonderful Vinegar Hill Theatre back to life. For so many years, this theater was an artistic hub of Charlottesville. I remember watching so many films here, from the political such as Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ to Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ to cutting edge dramas and independent offerings. We are hopeful that the Vinegar Hill vibes will rub off on Light House for many years to come.
I think it was John F. Kennedy who said, ‘The arts reflect the creativity and talent of a free people.’ This statement reflects the view that the arts are not some idle pastime and indulgence for the well-to-do, but are at the core of what makes a great society. The arts are one way in which we distinguish ourselves as free. The arts challenge us to innovate, cultivate talents in all professions, and help explain a world that is increasingly complex. The arts help us to see things differently and to grow as individuals, communities and societies. Not only do the arts provide us with a different view of the world around us, but more importantly the arts help us change our world in a positive way. And isn’t that what a lot of us want – to make our communities richer and more fulfilling for all of our residents? Life is much more than just about us – it is about the broader community and society. That is one reason that I do these events each year. You may recall that we have had similar events at The Bridge PAI, Chroma Projects, The Paramount, and Live Arts. For each event, we have celebrated a different element of our dynamic Charlottesville arts scene – music, the visual arts, and dance. This year, it is film.
In Charlottesville, the arts are everywhere. We have McGuffey, Live Arts, Heritage, Ash Lawn Opera, PCA, Second Street, New City Arts, Look3, The Paramount, Tom Tom; the list goes on and on. It is part of what makes Charlottesville so special. And when you think about special, did you know:
- The Charlottesville High School Orchestra continues to win accolades around the country and around the globe, and is now planning for their fifth European trip — to Ireland — next year. Congrats to Laura Mulligan Thomas and your talented musicians. Did you know Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band is an alumnus?
- Did you know that we have several Academy Award winners living in and around Charlottesville? Paul Wagner is with us tonight and you all know Sissy Spacek. In addition to the Academy Award winners, we have nominees such as Jack Fisk for his recent work on ‘The Revenant.’ We also have Emmy award winner Hugh Wilson, remembered for ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ fame, who lives in Keswick.
- Did you know that films made in Virginia, including ‘Cold Mountain’ and ‘Argo,’ won Academy Awards for Best Pictures? Why ‘Lincoln,’ which was filmed in Richmond and partly in my office in the Capitol, never won is anyone’s guess.
- Did you know our various arts festivals continue to grow in size and stature each year? Remember that little film festival that was begun at the University of Virginia in 1988 on a shoestring budget? Yes, the Virginia Festival of Film – and its Director, Jody Kielbasa, is here tonight – now brings over 32,000 participants each year to Charlottesville for a thorough exploration of film.
A couple of weeks ago I was involved in an interesting discussion about what moves people to take action or to change their way of thinking. Is it words, as in reading a book or a poem? Or images, as in looking at a painting or photo? I am an elected official and a lawyer. I give speeches, write articles, and argue – all with words. I live in a world of words. I believe in the power of words and rational persuasion. And yet, is there anything more powerful than when you can link the words on a page or which are spoken to images? That is what film and media are all about. All of you can remember experiences that you have had with film, where the words being spoken are being combined with the images to produce a powerful outcome. Think, for example, about ‘Schindler’s List.’ How many articles have we read about the Holocaust, but for many, it never became truly real until you were able to combine the words with the powerful images that Spielberg created on the screen, forever changing the way people thought about that horrible part of world history. The same can be said of so many films. ‘Roots’ dramatically changed our view of race relations; ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Platoon’ altered our view of the Vietnam War. There is something so powerful about images that get people to see issues in a different light – or through a different lens.
So, as we celebrate the arts tonight in our community, let us also think about what we want our communities to be, and how we mobilize the best arguments to get us there. We sometimes think that this can only be accomplished through elections, and I would be the first to say that elections are critically important. But we should not forget these other ways of affecting communities around us, and should encourage those who are trying to build change in so many different ways.
Thank you for attending tonight, and I look forward to working with you to make our locality and state a better place to live.”
After this talk, short films produced by youngsters in our community were shown. Each of them is about five minutes long and can be viewed here:
Following that, we also showed a vignette from a 2009 White House event involving Lin-Manuel Miranda, then a relatively new talent who was describing to President and Ms. Obama a little “rap” that he was developing about one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. This “rap” ended up being the smash Broadway hit, “Hamilton.” You can view that clip here and it will only inspire you to get tickets to the Broadway performance.
There are still chances to donate to this event. Click the button below to contribute to my efforts to bring more balance to the House of Delegates and Celebrate the Arts in our Community. Part of the proceeds will go to Light House Studio.