10 Highlights from a Year Full of Art on Grounds

December 19, 2018

University of Virginia students had plenty of opportunities to prove their creativity this year, and they took full advantage.

All over Grounds – on stages, in practice rooms, in museums, rap labs and classrooms – UVA students and faculty members produced extraordinary work and shared it with the world.

Here are just a few of the highlights.

Georgia O’Keeffe Returned to Grounds

Not in person, but certainly in spirit. Graduate students and faculty members spent untold hours studying the famous artist’s time at UVA to create an exhibition at UVA’s Fralin Museum of Art, “Unexpected O’Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings.”

The exhibition, which closes Jan. 27, highlights O’Keeffe’s watercolors of places on Grounds and in Charlottesville and shows how the four summers she spent studying at UVA set the stage for her now-famous career.

Read: The Untold Story of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Time at UVA

Julian Sanchez – and the Rest of the Heritage Theatre Festival Cast – Took a Bow

We followed along as 2018 graduate Julian Sanchez – now a graduate student in the same program that produced actors like Meryl Streep – took the stage at UVA one last time, playing aspiring Broadway actor Paul San Marco in “A Chorus Line” during this summer’s Heritage Theatre Festival.

The festival, coming up on its 45th year, brings professional actors and directors to Charlottesville to work alongside UVA students and faculty members for a series of plays and musicals each summer.

Read: Follow Along as 2018 Grad Julian Sanchez Takes the UVA Stage One Last Time

UVA and Charlottesville Joined Together for an Extraordinary Show

More than 150 musicians, dancers and vocalists from UVA, Charlottesville and beyond came together in October to perform Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” originally created by the famed American composer at the request of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The piece captured what Bernstein saw as a crisis of faith in the 20th century, particularly after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It calls for a huge variety of performers, making this year’s performance one of the largest UVA’s McIntire Department of Music has ever produced.

Read: Behind the Scenes: UVA, Charlottesville Singers Unite for Stunning Performance

A UVA Student Brought the Joy of Art to Charlottesville’s Homeless

First-year student and Charlottesville native Emma Hitchcock co-founded “Art for the Heart” with her friend Zadie Lacey to provide art workshops for the homeless, a group she worried was too often ignored and denied even basic human connection.

Hitchcock and Lacey, who refined their idea in UVA’s iLab, have conducted several winter and summer art workshops at The Haven, a day shelter for the homeless in downtown Charlottesville. The workshops have included painting, drawing and jewelry-making, which has proven a popular option.

Read: Student’s ‘Art for the Heart’ Venture Provides Welcome Respite for the Homeless

Student Novelist Shea Megale Inspired Classmates and Faculty Alike

Shea Megale might not have full use of her arms and legs, but her imagination runs wild. The second-year student, who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy II, wrote her first novel at 15 and has since written 13 more. Her first professionally published novel, “This is Not a Love Scene,” will be published in May by St. Martin’s Press.

Another book, also coming out next year, is heartbreakingly personal: a memoir of her brother Matt and his fatal struggle with addiction.

Even as these two books near publication, and as she continues to cope with her own grief, Megale is building a new life on Grounds, which she navigates with her service dog, Pierre.

Read: Novelist Shea Megale Adds a UVA Chapter to Her Own Extraordinary Story  

Students Created Their Own Version of the American Flag

Art and architecture professor Sanda Iliescu still keeps the small American flag that her mother, a Romanian dissident, waved when welcoming President Nixon to Romania in 1969. Just a few years later, the family fled to the U.S. to pursue the freedom they dreamed of.

In May, Iliescu had students work together to create their own version of the flag, pouring into it everything the country means to them and their families. Scores of students and community members painted a small piece of the larger whole, creating a tapestry-like flag rich with color, texture and meaning.

Read: Public Art Project Explores What the American Flag Means

The ‘Rap Lab’ Produced Powerful Original Music

A group of 14 students in music professor A.D. Carson’s “Composing Mixtapes” course produced a 15-song mixtape for their final exam in the spring. They wrote, performed, recorded and produced the entire album, and coordinated a premiere at Boylan Heights.

Students said they enjoyed collaborating with their classmates on lyrics and performances, building confidence on stage and off, and learning the ins and outs of music production.

Read: Students Debut a Mixtape Straight from UVA’s ‘Rap Lab’ in Unusual Final Exam

‘Makers’ Were Busy All Over Grounds

All across Grounds, students and faculty members used 3-D printers, robotic arms, laser cutters and many other tools to turn their ideas into reality. They call themselves the “Makers of UVA,” and they can be found in a growing network of “Maker Grounds” spaces across the University.

These labs have produced 3-D printed images of patients’ skulls – enabling UVA doctors to precisely plan surgeries, replicas of William Faulkner’s pipes, robots, racecars, tiny, detailed models of the Rotunda, and much, much more.

Read: Meet the Makers

The ‘Delorme Dome’ Returned Home

In the spring, 15 students in Benjamin Hays’ “History of American Building Technology” course built a replica of the original wooden dome that perished when the Thomas Jefferson-designed Rotunda caught fire in 1895.

Jefferson’s designs were inspired by the work of 16th-century French architect Philibert Delorme, who pioneered the technique of using wooden ribs to create beautiful, sturdy domes.

Read: The Wooden ‘Delorme Dome’ Comes Home to Jefferson’s Academical Village

The Ever-Popular Virginia Film Festival Closed Out the Year

The Virginia Film Festival brightened the first weekend of November with a star-studded slate of special guests, Oscar-worthy films, discussions and master classes. This year’s guest list included civil rights activist Martin Luther King III, the eldest son and namesake of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

King visited for the premiere of “Charlottesville,” a new documentary produced in part by UVA’s Center for Politics that focuses on the violent Unite the Right rallies in August 2017. Before the screening, he retraced his father’s footsteps in Old Cabell Hall, where the elder King spoke to more than 900 students and faculty in 1963.

Read: Snapshots of This Weekend’s Virginia Film Festival

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

Senior Writer and Assistant Editor of Illimitable Office of University Communications