Local art is local and energizing, wherever you are

Sam Black

This week I’m once again going to stretch the meaning of “local.”  I am on my way back to Duluth, having driven to Blacksburg, VA, for a family visit. I will have covered about 2,600 miles by the time I pull into my driveway.
The most fascinating discovery of this week long journey has been the incredible abundance of ‘local art’ the entire length of this trip. Now, I am not generally categorized as a young man. I have been criss-crossing the United States with some regularity since 1954, and quite a bit within the past decade. I don’t always get inundated by posters, set-ups, performances, exhibits, presentations as I travel. But this trip has been quite amazing, and it’s not even summer, by any definition.

Visible signs of local arts everywhere

Posters and billboards proliferate all over Madison, WI, Indianapolis, IN, Charleston, WV, as I would possibly expect. Art shows, music performances, theater opportunities, all created by LOCAL artists seemed to be popping up like wildflowers in spring. I don’t remember this happening on this scale during the seventies or eighties.
Then I wandered into the smaller communities and had the same experience. Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, Floyd, and Riner, VA, then Gallipolis, OH, had live music in the parks each of these many weekends, as well as art exhibits rotating week after week.
As I walked through the downtown blocks of Blacksburg, there were two outdoor performances in motion, one mostly bluegrass, the other a light, or gentle, sort of rock group. Meanwhile, an art gallery on every block was open for those who wanted to wander in, even as I walked over an artful man-hole cover in the street.
Local artists seem to be
around every corner

After I had driven up to Roanoke to look at the largest man-made star(!) up on a bluff over the city, I drove south on the Blue Ridge Parkway until I ended up in the two very small towns of Riner and Floyd. A crew was breaking down equipment in the bandshell, and multiple posters adorned the local art gallery. I was interested in the local, modern bluegrass group known as Annabelle’s Curse. These five young musicians have a pretty lively Internet sound, and they come from Bristol, VA. You can catch them at the Sun Music Hall in Dogtown, Floyd, VA on Friday October 14.
All over the month of October, about five different local Blacksburg ensembles are offering performances at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of New River Valley. Classical, bluegrass, and Broadway are on the list at this popular local venue.

And oboes on the Ohio (River)?

I was even more surprised when I went north across the Ohio River and ate smoked turkey in Gallipolis, OH. For one, the Ohio Valley Symphony has an upcoming concert called Oboes on the Ohio, featuring Cincinnati oboist Dwight Parry. Secondly, another opportunity called Five Local Artists & Craftsman is opening later this week at The Gallery at 409. This is a community of 3,641 in 2010.

New artistic impact with a southern drawl

I have a window sticker on my Mazda that simply states: Support Local Arts. I assume that means wherever I travel. One final piece of humor came from my grand-daughter Abigail, having recently moved from Austin, TX, to Blacksburg, VA with her father. She remembered hearing a musical announcer in the Austin area speak about lo-CAL music, as if a steady diet of such music would keep you slender. Depending on the energy on stage, in the gallery, or at the theater, that might be a new approach to the benefits of participating in the arts, local, lo-CAL. All the same, I find all the arts fully enriching.