‘The Bridge Project’: United ShenValley Artists unveils community art project Saturday

Heather Davis points to one of the 136 pieces of art on display at the Selah Theater in Front Royal. United ShenValley Artists will unveil the artwork, titled "The Bridge," to the public on Saturday. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – United ShenValley Artists will unveil its new community art project titled “The Bridge Project,” an exhibit of over 130 postcards celebrating connection across differences at 7 p.m. Saturday at Selah Theatre.

Heather Davis, founder of United ShenValley Artists, said the ultimate goal of the community-based project was to use art to make a positive change in and around the Warren County community.

“The Bridge Project was created to make individuals think about how they connect with one another on a daily level,” Davis said. “There’s so much rhetoric in the air about division, politics and racism. So our solution was to create a way to end that division, on an artistic level.”

The exhibit represents the creative expressions of over 130 artists, through mixed media, on a local and international level, exhibiting a wide variety of themes on connecting with the environment, travel, faith, music and human nature.

Artists range in age and locality including Virginia, Maryland, Amsterdam and Palestine.

“There were no limitations on what people could submit,” Davis said. “We allowed them to interpret the theme of connections in their own unique ways.”

Mark Cooley, project coordinator and arts professor at George Mason University, said art brings people together.

“I love the idea of community art,” Cooley said. “When the project came full circle I really saw what Heather wanted to create. She wanted to create a sense of community in the best way she knew how.”

The purpose behind the Bridge Project was always to connect people with other people, Davis said, while highlight and celebrating differences.

Cooley’s daughter Celia, 13 of Front Royal, submitted three post cards and said she really enjoyed watching how the bridge project evolved from the initial idea to its execution at the theater.

“It was initially going to be a real bridge but we thought that took away from the symbolism of the project,” Mark Cooley said. “We really wanted the postcards to be able to stand on their own and tell their own stories.”

Saturday evening’s program will include an intro and welcome by Tammy Ruggiero and Heather Davis, followed by a message from a representative of the Khatme Nubuwwat Center – the local Muslim community; African drumming by teacher and musician Jona Masiya, poetry by Jody Frank, Heather Davis, Jose Padua and Kristin Zimet; guitar and vocal by Matt Chellini; vocals by Lynne Arnold, music by Mark and Celia Cooley as well as music by members of the “Daycare Swindlers.”

Davis said she hopes the exhibit will open guests up to thinking about the rich diversity in their own backyards.

“Sometimes we need to make an effort to reach out and connect – we’re all here. We just don’t reach out or think about things that affect us all. But mostly I hope everyone leaves inspired by what they saw.” 

Mark Cooley added: “I think the opening is going to be really interesting. When we originally started this project one of the most interesting aspects was the idea of communal art. And I think we can say we achieved that.”

The exhibit is expected to stay at Selah Theatre for the next several weeks. Davis said they’re working on sharing the bridge with local libraries and businesses in Front Royal.

If You Go

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Selah Theatre, 400-B Kendrick Lane, Front Royal.

Admission: Free.