First Fridays will be getting a youthful twist this month. Drawings, paintings and other artworks by more than 500 Charlottesville City Schools students can be seen in two dozen Downtown Mall businesses through June 2.
The school division’s ArtConnections: Jeff Suling Annual Art Exhibit, shown outside the school environment for the first time, already is on display. It officially opens with a family-friendly celebration Friday at the CODE Building that will include a performance by the Charlottesville High School Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m., followed at about 8 p.m. by a sundown projection of student art on the wall of the CODE Building.
“You don’t have to be affiliated with Charlottesville City Schools to see it,” Aaron Eichorst, fine arts coordinator, told The Daily Progress. And although the visual feast at restaurants and retail establishments is new, it’s part of an ongoing tradition. “This show has been happening for about 40 years in some form or another,” he said.
Paintings on skateboard decks can be seen at Cinema Skate Shop. In all, there will be creations ranging “from 3-year-olds in preschool up to seniors in high school,” Eichorst said.
ArtConnections also ties students’ creative expressions and visual art education to a wide range of Standards of Learning disciplines, including science, math, history and language, he said.
Students also gain from the experience of seeing their art in context on the Downtown Mall, Eichorst said. Students at each school will be bused in turn to the Downtown Mall before the end of the exhibit to enjoy the exhibition.
ArtConnections is one of several events offered as part of Downtown in Bloom, a monthlong celebration of spring and community presented by the Friends of Charlottesville Downtown organization.
Also planned are the Spring Stroll, during which guests can try cocktails, mocktails and specialty drinks at downtown bars, restaurants and coffee shops; the Downtown Flower and Plant Market, which is set for 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Ting Pavilion at the east end of the Mall; a flower box competition which challenges businesses to outdo each other with fetching container gardens and planter boxes; and the 2023 Chalk Fest presented with Ix Art Park, set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 20, which will feature 13 artists creating murals from Ting Pavilion to Dairy Market and Quirk Hotel Charlottesville.