This piece kicks off what will be a regular series of blog posts on the center’s ongoing arts engagement at the university, in the New River Valley, and beyond. In Turner & Alumni, you can expect to read stories of community members’ interactions with local and visiting artists, illustrations of developing community-based art projects, and bold ideas about the power of art in community-building here in southwest Virginia.

As staff at the Center for the Arts in partnership-building and engagement, we’ll be your hosts (for today, at least). Keep an eye out for additional voices from the community in this blog series, as we collectively explore the value of engaging with one another through the arts.

Engagement is a two-way process. An encounter that leads to meaningful interaction. It strikes us that a particular architectural feature of the new Moss Arts Center fosters this. From one vantage point in the Francis T. Eck corridor of the Moss Arts Center, you can see the building’s entrances from both Turner Street and Alumni Mall. Since the Moss Arts Center hugs the edge of campus, these doors face the university and the town, respectively.

This corridor—at the intersection of Turner & Alumni—serves as a fitting metaphor, we think, for the Center for the Arts’ potential as a town/gown connector. A gathering place at the nexus of campus and community for collaborative art-making, dialogue, relationship-building, and celebration.

In the short few months since we moved into the magnificent Moss Arts Center, we’ve already seen a significant number of amazing arts engagements. The Community Open House featured a cappella ensembles, spoken word artists, bluegrass groups, dancers, and—led by visiting artist Elise Witt—a diverse “Impromptu Glorious Chorus” of over 100 community members. The center’s youth performance series presented free school shows by Sphinx Virtuosi, Ballet Hispanico, and Diavolo Dance Theatre  for nearly 2,500 kids in third through 12th grades. And a host of My Take Talks, master classes, lobby events, and Q&As provided more intimate opportunities for connecting with artists, neighbors, and friends.


Elise Witt and members of the “Impromptu Glorious Chorus” gear-up for the Community Open House of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.

In the spirit of the “corridor” metaphor above, we thought, “what better way to launch this series than by opening a dialogue with you?”

  • What memories have you made at the new Moss Arts Center, so far?
  • How would you like to engage with the arts through the center in the future?

Please feel free to respond in the comments. We look forward to chatting with you.

– Sarah & Jon

Jon Catherwood-Ginn is the Partnerships & Engagement Manager at the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. Jon received a master of fine arts degree in Directing & Public Dialogue from Virginia Tech and a bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University. Since 2010, Jon has partnered with the New River Valley Planning District Commission as co-director of Building Home, which uses interactive theatre and music to open up public dialogue on the topic of livability in southwest Virginia. Building Home’s community gatherings and original plays have created avenues for over 900 citizens from the region to contribute their stories and perspectives to the regional planning process through art-making.

Sarah Halvorson-Fried is a student in the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning program at Virginia Tech. Sarah came to the Center for the Arts in October 2013 with a background in agriculture-based engagement and community building in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. New to the area and to arts-based engagement, she’s excited about what the Center for the Arts, New River Valley, and Virginia Tech communities can do together.