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PANG: Support Ix Art Park and let us all be artists

Donate to the park and support its commitment to uplifting art in the Charlottesville community

<p>Ix Art Park, as a free art park and a staple of the Charlottesville art community, faces this same predicament and needs community support now more than ever.</p>

Ix Art Park, as a free art park and a staple of the Charlottesville art community, faces this same predicament and needs community support now more than ever.

The pandemic stifled perhaps the most integral aspect of the arts — the ability to congregate and create something great for a community. Arts in Charlottesville have braved these setbacks, but the effects are still acutely felt. Ix Art Park, a nonprofit organization and a hallmark of the Charlottesville art scene, is pausing operations due to a funding shortage, and has recently had to remove five full-time employees from their payroll. The University community, in our quest to become a better neighbor of Charlottesville and more cognizant of our impact, should not take this development lightly. To preserve Charlottesville’s history and the unparalleled, individualized experience of a physical art space, the University community should give back to Ix Art Park. 

Art organizations losing money is, unfortunately, not new. In fact, this has been happening across the board, especially after the pandemic. Even The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show on Broadway, closed its curtain for the last time just this past spring due to rising costs post-quarantine.  If the nation’s most popular theater show is struggling, what will become of local artists? What’s more, unemployment in the arts peaked these past few years. The fine arts, performing arts and music lost an estimated cumulative 2.3 million jobs between April and July of 2020. While it is true that larger artists are more likely to rebound, the same cannot be said for local arts initiatives, who directly serve their surrounding community and rely on it for support.

Ix Art Park, as a free art park and a staple of the Charlottesville art community, faces this same predicament and needs community support now more than ever. This is not the first time that it has fought against a larger economic downturn. Before it was established as an art park, it was originally a silk mill founded by Frank Ix, Jr., who liked Charlottesville so much upon moving here that he stayed a lifetime. The mill was Charlottesville’s largest employer for decades, until it was forced to close due to competition from the international textile market in 1999. In 2014, local developer Ludwig Kuttner and local filmmaker Brian Wimer bought the empty mill and turned it into Ix Art Park. 

Since then, the park has held more than 250 events a year, ranging from outdoor music festivals to artist tributes and salsa dancing. Last year, the park hosted 290,000 people and sold 12,000 tickets to The Looking Glass, Virginia’s first permanent immersive art space that opened during the pandemic. The park is also host of the annual Charlottesville-Albemarle Black Business Expo, which showcases and celebrates local Black-owned businesses in Charlottesville. It is clear, then, that the larger Charlottesville community values Ix Art Park as a space that uplifts members’ creative soul, no matter their prior relationship to art. 

The University community, too, should support the park by donating, volunteering or attending their events — the park has supported students and helped us to flourish outside the University. At a time when LGBTQ+ rights are threatened in Virginia at-large, Ix Art Park continues to host Charlottesville Pride, creating a safe space for the local LGBTQ+ community, both students and Charlottesville residents. The Farmer’s Market, a student favorite, sees vendors — 47 percent of which represent Black, Indigenous and immigrant communities and people of color — selling healthy, fresh produce and handmade decor and clothing to around 3,000 people every Sunday.

In stepping outside of the so-called University bubble, one can see that Ix Art Park has truly cultivated a community of acceptance, joy and creativity for students that has and will continue to shape our time at this University. We have relied on this space as a bridge between ourselves and Charlottesville, as a gathering place for solidarity and a sanctuary away from the bustle and stress of being a student. Ix Art Park, as a nonprofit that relies on donations, is now relying on us for donations so they can continue to be that space — we must show up for Ix Art Park much in the same way the park has been there for us. 

Outside of these very tangible events, the park’s true genius lies in the way it empowers every member of the Charlottesville community to form their own unique connections with art. For me, it was learning about the park’s commitment to partnering with the Boys & Girls Club to facilitate a yearly summer program for marginalized youth. I was reminded of my own experiences with art as a kid — evenings with my local Boys & Girls Club making crochet bracelets, or afterschool at the stop-motion animation club, where I proudly became a mini-filmmaker with clay and construction paper. Not unlike a University liberal arts education, art has taught me patience, collaboration and critical thinking. I often wonder now, as a science major and a busy college student, if I am a less capable artist than I was years ago — less able to open that portal to the mind and form deeper connections with others, to get wonderfully lost in the human experience. 

Ix Art Park reminds me that we are all artists, all equally deserving of the chance to experience art. This safe space has always welcomed and allowed everyone to exist creatively. So let us champion its truth, open our hearts and support art in Charlottesville. 

Songhan Pang is an Opinion Writer who writes about Health, Tech, and Environment for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.


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