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The trees glowed the colors of a raging fire and the sky housed thunderous clouds within a sea of blue. Yellow leaves tumbled in the crisp air while the wind conducted the sounds of Fall within its forest ensemble. Squirrels scampered and buzzards glided effortlessly within overhead gusts. Steadfast brick buildings as old as the original colonies lined the developments within the thick surrounding nature and academia scribbled pencils and tapped kegs along halls of UVA. Through forest and along brick lined streets, our eyes attentively observed the colors, sounds and culture of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The plane skidded to a stop in Richmond, VA where the adventure began. The outside colors hinted at Fall, but the palette of modern art awaited within the walls of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Unknowingly, the collection boasted works by all the modern masters including Renior, Van Gogh, Picasso, Braque, Cezanne, Matisse, Dega, Monet, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Warhol and many others. A collection not to miss and one which housed a new favorite piece of art.

With the colors of past muses fresh in mind, the journey continued down the highway surrounded by lush vegetation, trees scattered with changing color and moist shrubs hinting at a recent rain. Sporadic hail smashed into the windshield in-between winks of the distant blue sky.

An 80 mile drive from Richmond concluded in the brick lined streets of Charlottesville where damp skies and rich pockets of culture greeted. History and contemporary culture runs wild individually, though maintains a healthy harmony within the community. Home of Thomas Jefferson, among other US presidents, historical relevance to our current nation can be seen in a number of large scale statues, including one controversial statue of Lewis and Clark with a cowering Sacagawea sits at the feet of the men, though the story goes she helped translate and led them. Buildings as old as the founding fathers remain with informing plaques while kids jam music out of neighboring garages during guerrilla public concerts.

The Charlottesville Downtown Mall boasts a number of restaurants, including favorites Felini’s #9 and the Downtown Grille, art galleries, pubs, theaters and boutiques. Street-side stands offer nick-knacks to tourists and Harmonica Dave, a local favorite, serenades with his harmonica. Coffee shops animate with young minds and local pubs hiccup and belch with barflies and academia including the local favorite Miller’s Downtown where Charlottesville native Dave Matthews supposedly once bartended. At the North end of the downtown mall just before the open air nTelos Wireless Pavilion, is a 54 feet long by 7.5 feet high 2 sided Buckingham slate wall called the Freedom of Speech Wall where the public is encouraged to express themselves on the wall with chalk.

A bit less commercial and a whole lot smaller is what could be called the Charlottesville local art district of Belmot. Not more than the length of a short street is a stretch of restaurants, coffee shops and the Bridge Gallery, a progressive arts initiative and gallery, located by its large outside murals. A long wall just below this community and adjacent to the slow moving trains is a community wall where local graffiti writers are given permission to express themselves.

The University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, is just a short drive up Main Street from the Downtown Mall. The campus is amazingly beautiful. Golden leaves tumbled down the weathered streets and over green grass while thick white pillars grounded red clumps of brick to the Earth. While conversations ofstudent’s last exams echoed through the halls, frat houses frenzied with the excitement of the arrival of another homecoming weekend. Book bags and calculators were exchanged for kegs and beer bongs and the colors of orange and navy blue flexed on the eve of the home field UVA football game.

Charlottesville is a perfect harmony of history and contemporary forward thinking where its community maintains the presence of its historical roots, but showcases its new age expression. It nourishes personal expression and celebrates the first amendment with the Freedom of Speech Wall, the community graffiti wall, the support of Occupy Charlottesville by its mayor and a wide variety of  progressive sculptures in the city sponsored Art in Place program. For the explorer in search for history, academia, arts, music and the support of personal expression, Charlottesville, VA is a must visit… and it is absolutely beautiful!

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