Meet Your Nonprofit - The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative

Describe your nonprofit’s mission.
The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative is a creative hub that uses art and design as a vehicle for civic engagement. We do this by pairing artists and designers with the community to explore how the creative process can educate, energize, and engage Charlottesville.
At the core of the Bridge is an understanding that the arts play an immense role in strengthening and enriching the community as a whole. Not only does the organization serve as a space to support artists in taking creative risks, but it also believes that art should be accessible to all, being a shared connection in Central Virginia and beyond.

What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative was co-founded in 2004 by Zack Worrell and Greg Antrim Kelly as a space for organizing and hosting small-scale art exhibitions and events out of a vacant storefront in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville. Through the support of the broader community, these endeavors grew to consist of multiple programs including visual art, music, literature, theatre, and film. In 2010 the organization received non-profit status with a mission to bridge diverse communities through the arts.

How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
Throughout its history The Bridge has supported a vast amount of projects both inside and outside the gallery, reaching as diverse a population as is possible. Collaborations have taken place around issues of housing, food, environment, health, and education, using culture as a form of engagement, expression, and empowerment. This has lead to new core programs that seek to place artists and the artistic process at the nexus of dynamic community conversations. Additionally, through our Public Artist Residency, The Bridge makes a significant financial, logistic, and organizational investment in an artist it believes can have a major impact on the City of Charlottesville.

How can community members help you achieve your mission?
The Bridge is always seeking volunteers to help us achieve our mission! As a small nonprofit, we rely on the incredible support of volunteers and student interns to help us put together our programs and events. We actively seek driven individuals who can commit time and energy to assist at various levels in presenting our message and work to the community.

Tell us a story that has come out of your work.
Through The Bridge’s 2016 Public Artist Residency of Jennifer Hoyt-Tidwell, we were able to create a platform upon which financial, logistical, and organizational support were provided to a local artist to create a significant work of art that impacted the Charlottesville community. As part of the process of creating NO WAKE, Tidwell was able to pay every member of the cast and crew–down to local school children from the neighborhood who took part in the performance.

Tidwell also worked with art students at Walker Upper Elementary School and engineering students at Buford Middle School to create a massive monster puppet made from recycled plastic water bottles that was used in the performances of NO WAKE.

Outside of the performance itself, Tidwell worked with students at the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center to create a Messages In a Bottle installation. Either in response to prompts relating to the themes of NO WAKE, or according to their inspiration, the students crafted anonymous messages which were placed in bottles that they also painted and embellished using their own creativity and imaginations. The bottles were displayed in various locations, including small businesses around the community and were available for purchase–all proceeds going to art funding in the City Schools. The installation’s purpose was for the community to have a chance to hear the thoughts and feelings of this segment of our community and for the students to practice identifying their values and describing their memories.

Learn more about The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative

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