Imagine, Create, Innovate... Tom Tom Festival's 6th Year

Apr 13, 2017

It’s billed as a week of innovation and art, with Charlottesville itself as the canvas.  The sixth annual Tom Tom Founders Festival is happening this week in Charlottesville. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini has the story.

[Crowd chatting around Irish street music]

Paul Beyer, the festival’s founder, can definitely provide what you might call the elevator pitch for the event.

PAUL BEYER: Tom Tom is a time where I think Charlottesville really shines. We like to celebrate our local entrepreneurs, our local founders, our local civic leaders and we also try to invite the nation – increasingly – the nation to come to Charlottesville and check out what is going on here. There will be 300 hundred speakers at Tom Tom this year, 60 bands, 65 venues, over 150 events – many of them like tonight are completely free.

And what do all these events have in common?  Associate director Celia Castleman explains.

CELIA CASTLEMAN: The goal is to connect collaborators with one another, and to leave legacies, so the collaborations that people find amongst each other, and make and discover, will then turn into something sustainable. We love the idea of having speakers come and really spend time with our community.

This year, some of those speakers include New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, co-founder and CEO of CODE2040 Laura Weidman Powers, and many others from the arts, science, and the environment.

Two key words that capture the essence of Tom Tom -- community and innovation. Steve Plaskon attended a session called “Innovation in Education” on Tuesday night.

STEVE PLASKON: Being associate professor in the Curry School, I am really interested in educational innovation. So I hope to get out of this just some sense of what the youth of America are doing right now, what is happening locally. I hope to be energized by this.

Kristen Jamison, Assistant Professor of Teaching at UVa and Director of The Loop Center for Social and Emotional Development, emphasized the need for more engaging education:

KRISTEN JAMISON: If the instruction is not engaging, and creative, if it does not involve movement, if it does not involve intrigue, then a lot of time is lost and wasted. Really it’s about merging the idea of quality with engagement and interest.

To get younger attendees engaged, Tom Tom showcases workshops including one featuring secrets from the art of puppetry. It was staged at the Paramount Theater by Graeme Black Robinson and Michelle Urbano, from the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia.

[Extract from a play performed by The Mermaid Theater]

GRAEME BLACK ROBINSON: It’s great for us to not only get the kids to see a professional puppetry at a young age, but for them to actually get their hands on the puppets, and to realize that it’s basically playing with toys, it’s a really great sort of hands-on experience with theater that they get to have at a young age.

[Sound of puppetry workshop]

All this creativity and invention require fuel  -- so food is another important feature. Many of the city’s local restaurants are participating in the 'Farm to Table Restaurant Week' during which they highlight a local ingredient. Citizen Burger Bar decided to highlight more than one:

KATE ELLWOOD: This year we’re doing one called the home town burger. So we are using local cheese from Mountain View Farm, and then mushrooms are out in Nelson County from “a. m. FOG” mushrooms,  and our beef is five miles down the road, from Timbercreek Farm, it’s grass-fed grass-finished.

That’s the venue’s general manager Kate Ellwood, who is also attending some of the music events:

ELLWOOD: I plan on going to Porchella, and Belmont, for all the music acts, so that sounds really fun.

Conveniently, the festival’s website has a 72-hour weekend itinerary for those who could not attend the week days.

The sixth annual Tom Tom Founder's Festival continues through Sunday, April 16.