A walk through downtown Lynchburg, VA reveals a vibrant Southern town on the up swing of a cultural renaissance. It’s clear to me, after having grown up in a small town in East TN that attempted a downtown revival in the 1990s, that Lynchburg has a special “je ne sais quoi” that rivals the attraction of places like Asheville, NC and Savannah, GA. Clearly, the Lynchburg community has what it takes to innovate its historic buildings, maintain the character of its history, and draw both tourists and locals alike to its streets filled with antique malls, restaurants and a lively outdoor farmer’s market.
An anchor point in this landscape is Riverviews Artspace, where my film What’s Organic About Organic? screened on Friday, September 16, 2011. At lunch that day with Riverviews Director, Mary Ann Racin and Exhibitions and Programs Manager, Erin Stover, I discovered that from the humble beginnings as a shoe factory warehouse, Riverviews has become a cornerstone of the arts community in Lynchburg, complete with juried exhibitions, a beautiful gallery, an annual film festival, studio space rentals, and more.
Before the screening, Erin invited a host of local farmers and artisan food producers to have a Harvest Happy Hour in the gallery. The evening featured tasting samples of scrumptious grass-fed meat from Lund Angus Beef, yummy jams and relish from Dancing Chick, and delicious goat cheeses from Night Sky Farm. Also displaying their wares and sharing information was Idle Wild Farm.
Then, in a downstairs stonewalled screening room that felt like a wine cave, guests sat in plush chairs for the film. As the filmmaker, I was relieved when the audience laughed at all the right places and thrilled when, as the credits rolled, farmer Lucy Overstreet sitting next to me turned and said, “I loved your film and I even learned a lot!” Coming from a farmer, I felt like that was a great compliment!
The discussion afterwards was complete with astute questions and kind compliments. For example, “Is it really true that agro-chemicals were invented from the surplus of chemicals following WWII?” and “I loved the part in Harlem!” I even got some good old Southern hugs from some particularly appreciative viewers. But the love in the air was mutual—Lynchburg is officially my new favorite place.
Post by Shelley Rogers, OSIP Touring Filmmaker.
Photos by Erin Stover of Riverviews Artspace.