Charlottesville Community Chalkboard

In downtown Charlottesville, freedom of speech, civic art, and community involvement are sights that you will not miss. Located in front of City Hall is the Charlottesville Community Chalkboard and Podium: A Monument to the First Amendment.  The chalkboard opened in 2006, but plans had been underway long beforehand. According a June 23, 2005 article in “The Hook,” the idea was proposed in 1997. In 2001, the City Council approved the construction of the 54′ long x 7.5′ high chalkboard.  The designers of the monument are architects Peter O’Shea and Robert Winstead.  At first the monument worried city officials since anyone could write anything on it, but it has been a positive contribution to the community. Permanently inscribed on the chalkboard are quotes by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and poet John Milton [see The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression]. Aside from those permanent words, the chalkboard can be erased, washed, and begun anew by anyone. A local high school student, Sasha Soloduhkina, created a time lapse video of the monument. It’s about 3 minutes long and shows the chalkboard being erased and written on by people in the community.

Community Chalkboard

Community Chalkboard

Charlottesville's Community Chalkboard

Charlottesville's Chalkboard

The chalkboard seems like a great addition to the downtown mall. Not only are people shopping and eating and strolling, but they can read the chalkboard and add to it, feeling as though they’ve been a a part of downtown Charlottesville, even for a moment. Of course, there were a variety of messages, some verging on profane, but many were sincere or fun and meant no harm. Because citizens have permission to erase the chalkboard, it allows for community or individual enforced censorship (hopefully only when necessary).

When wandering around the downtown mall a few weeks ago, Vinny, Elyse, and I found these giant chalkboards. At the time, we knew nothing about them or if we were allowed the add to the chalk writings, but since chalk was just sitting on the chalkboard ledge, we figured that it meant the public could join in on the fun. Who can resist chalk and a chalkboard? In the spirit of public expression and a weekend with some of my favorite preservationists I added this:

Flamingos! on the chalkboard.

Flamingos! on the chalkboard.

And then, on the other side, unabashed in self promotion and as sort of an experiment I added this:

Preservation in Pink on the chalkboard

Preservation in Pink on the chalkboard

I would be curious to know if anyone found Preservation in Pink through the chalkboard. Let me know if you did! Are there chalkboards like this anywhere else?


8 thoughts on “Charlottesville Community Chalkboard

  1. Paula Sagerman says:

    Hi Kaitlin,
    We’re going on a road trip to Charlottesville! I’ll see if your graffiti is still there. 🙂
    I’ve never been there before, so we’ll be going to Monticello and UVA, of course. Do you have any other suggestions?

  2. Paula Sagerman says:

    Thanks for letting me know about Barboursville – out hosts didn’t know about the house ruin and I would have missed it if you hadn’t told me! We LOVED Charlottesville.

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