When I moved back to Charlottesville in 1996, it wasn’t the “happiest city”, the “best town” in America or even the most interesting. For sure it was a little sleepy, but there was something starting…there was a spark. I was fortunate to be able to meet those sparks, bask in their awesomeness, and to benefit from having lived in their time.
Studio Blue is a special place and I offer it up to others in the same spirit Gabe and Karen offered it…
If you didn’t know Gabe and Karen, I share this poignant memorial with you in their honor. Thank you John Gibson for such a beautiful tribute and for giving me permission to share it here:
Gabe Silverman pried Charlottesville loose from the cold grip of Thomas Jefferson, who, if we're honest, never cared enough about the town to grasp it. The town retroactively rearranged his glow for its own basking; Jefferson mostly treated Charlottesville as a supply depot, and then late in life as the thing between the little mountain and the academical village. It remained that for a couple hundred years, in sleepy thrall to its first visionary.
Gabe Silverman woke Charlottesville up, insisted that the place was worthy of not only a past, but a future. Until him, there was the University and Monticello and the stuff in between. That interstitial limbo was the town. Many of its people lived in red brick Jefferson Country, or else in that scruffy no-place with a handful of sublime bookstores and one great restaurant. I was lucky enough, for 18 years, to live in Silverman Country. It was jerrymandered, non-contiguous-- most of Downtown, the Ix, a good stretch of West Main, on out to Batesville, dibs and dabs here and there. Instantly recognizable-- Babar and rebar, cigarette butts, artists, rock stars, poets, crazy-ass street people, conduit and toy robots. It was thrilling-- one day a gas station, the next a bakery, and maddening-- when would the long-promised drywall arrive? It was never dull.
It would have required Beckett to invent Gabe and Ali, and come to think of it, maybe he did. A perpetual motion machine of seeming opposites, in absolute lockstep, standing outside some derelict property, firing off sparks of "ka-ching" and "aha!". Gabe's other great partner in life came from a different author altogether. Karen mediated him for the world, gave us human access to the wild-eyed dreamer, and tethered him. Watching Gabe watch Karen. Watching Karen watch Gabe. Epic. Heartbreaking.
Gabe and I spent a decade or so talking for an hour or two every day. We both smoked, and in the agora of the Michie Building courtyard, we solved the problems of the world. Gabe grasped and made manifest those great mantras: "What if...""Yes, and..."We both lost mighty loves. On the late Fall night, all scuttling leaves, that Karen's light went out, I found myself in their kitchen, bereft. He was beyond devastated, the face of grief. He made me tea. When Joey died a few years later, we became brother widowers, two non-joiners, now members of the same club. He showed me that life after was possible.Most towns never get a single visionary. Charlottesville got two: one by accident of birth, one by wild chance. The place it is now can only be read in those two lights. Poised between Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Silverman. Lucky place, lucky us, lucky him to find a place that fit his crackpot, faraway, breathtaking gaze. Tango on, old friend.
Founder – LiveArts
Karen’s studio as it was when many of us took classes there: