The Bridge PAI fosters local artistic community

Director Alan Goffinski talks inclusion in the arts, Charlottesville community


"As director of The Bridge, my most important role is making sure the organization is responsive to our community," Gaffinski said.

Courtesy The Bridge

Founded in 2004 by artists Zack Worrell and Greg Antrim Kelly, the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative seeks to “bridge diverse communities through the arts.” The organization puts together exhibitions, talks, workshops, performances and more to encourage local artists and students of all ages to explore community identity, challenge ideas and respond to social issues. The Cavalier Daily spoke with director Alan Goffinski via email about how these collaborations happen as well as the Bridge’s upcoming events.

Arts and Entertainment: What is your role as director in powering the initiative today?

Alan Goffinski: As director of The Bridge, my most important role is making sure the organization is responsive to our community. This means staying flexible and forward-focused so that The Bridge is relevant. We are a community organization. That means we are not only for Charlottesville, we also need to be by Charlottesville. To that end, we draw from an ever expanding pool of artists, thought-leaders, activists and advocates to drive our mission forward.

AE: You collaborate with University students in projects such as StoryStream and the Telemetry Music Series, and elementary school students in SmART Kids at the Bridge. How do these collaborations work? What do you hope these students take away from their interactions with local artists?

AG: Our intention is always connection. Our mission of bridging diverse communities through the arts applies strongly to our efforts to bridge the U.Va. community with the rest of Cville. This is a beautiful and engaging city and we want U.Va. students to find opportunities to get off Grounds to participate in something meaningful. Not only for their benefit, but for the sake of Cville, too! 

My hope is that students gain a broader perspective by stepping off Grounds and experiencing new perspectives from creators and community members in Cville. But just as important, we want to see students sharing their passions and knowledge with our community.

AE: Can you tell me more about the exhibition for “People of Charlottesville” opening on Nov. 3? How does this project reflect on what it means to be from Charlottesville?

AG: Our current exhibit "People of Charlottesville" is a project by long-time Charlottesville resident, Aaron Farrington. It showcases a series of wet plate collodion process photos of artists, immigrants, small business owners, long-time residents and other interesting people who call Charlottesville home. The photos have an antique quality and the 1910-ish Kodak 2d 8x10 camera on display in the gallery, reminding us that that the past is never really the past, as events this summer have shown.

AE: What inspired the Telemetry Music Series?

AG: The Telemetry music series showcases new music in a way that deliberately mingles audiences. Birthed out of a partnership with the McIntire Music Department, the goal is to push musical boundaries, expose people to new, sometimes strange sounds and performance methods and foster creative growth between different music communities. 

We make a deliberate effort to connect U.Va. acts, performers from the Cville community, and out-of-town musicians every time. It's always free and open to the public, so it's a low-risk way for an audience to try exposing themselves to something new. Whether it's an 8-channel surround sound experience, aggressive free jazz or thoughtful hip hop, audiences can be sure they will hear something unexpected.

AE: Charlottesville has become a national lightning rod for discourse about racism. What is the Bridge PAI’s role as an artistic response to August 11 and 12?

AG: I think that the responsibility of The Bridge in response to this summer's events is the same as everyone else. On some level, all responsible citizens and organizations need to use our resources to explore and respond to institutionalized racism, oppressive power structures, implicit biases and the breakdown in constructive discourse that communities across the country are facing. 

In the wake of extremely difficult and tragic times in our community, we quite often hear the phrase “Now more than ever….”. Yes, engaging in creativity while fostering diversity is especially crucial in times like these … but isn’t there more to it? Can’t creativity and diversity do more than merely respond? Shouldn’t our community strive to foster joyful creative experiences that celebrate our diversity … all of the time? 

The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative has been a resource for creative collaboration, constructive discourse, and diverse expression for over 11 years. Our mission to bridge diverse communities through the arts lies at the center of each program and at the heart of every exchange. We continue to push forward in pursuit of these values.

related stories