Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chef Rhonda Mixes It Up at the VCCA

For the VCCA's new chef, Rhonda Scovill, "The First Impression" is one of her most important ingredients.

“To me, every night is a catered event,” says Rhonda, who, with a staff of four kitchen assistants, serves about 22 Fellows in residence at a time. “It’s not just a meal. It’s not just dinner.”

Enter exotic gourds and squash, ruddy pomegranates, glistening star fruit, tangy salad dressings (her signature), steaming beef stew served in a hollowed out pumpkin shell and an authentic Greek meal.

“I’m all about what the food looks like, says Rhonda, who is trained as a catering chef. “Pre-packaged and process foods do not look good, and don’t taste good either. In this time of fuel consumption and global warming I am so much more comfortable with my food not traveling very far,” she says. “Food that has spent the least amount of time getting into my kitchen looks and tastes the best.”

This spring then, in the interest of this low-food-miles philosophy, Rhonda will plant an herb garden, rosemary bushes and edible flowers on the VCCA grounds, and has already begun working with resident staff to pull off a comprehensive vegetable garden.

In the meantime, Rhonda continues her quest for the best local suppliers. In and out of her kitchen recently: a farmer delivering a bushel of turnips. Apples from an orchard in a neighboring county. Grits and cornmeal ground at the Amherst Mill just down the road. Sorghum molasses made during a neighborhood fall festival.

One evening shortly after her arrival in October, Rhonda stepped out of the kitchen and into the dining room--as she does regularly--to formally address the Fellows. “We are fortunate to be right in the heart of apple country,” she began, holding up a golden specimen. “See this apple,” she boasted, “it’s been touched by two people, me and the picker. It’s one of the best apples you will ever eat.”

A Virginian, Rhonda’s pride is obvious, and contagious. She cut her teeth at some of the area’s most prestigious restaurants, including the C&O Restaurant, one of Charlottesville's oldest fine dining establishments, which she managed for 13 years, and remains a chef there for special events. She was executive chef at 20 South Catering for four years and most recently established the kitchen at a new golf club.

But it is at the VCCA that she has found a place for her own creative expression. The VCCA, she says, is a “kindred sprit kind of place.”

Patricia Klindienst Receives Heiner Fellowship; Wins American Book Award

Writer Patricia Klindienst, author of The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic America, is currently in residence under the auspices of the Phillip and Eric Heiner Endowed Fellowship. Funded through the generosity of long-time supporter Frances Heiner of Lynchburg, Virginia, this residency will support a highly deserving visual artist, writer or composer each year.

The Earth Knows My Name, which tells the stories of fifteen ethnic Americans who transmit their cultural heritage through their gardens, received a 2007 American Book Award and has been praised by readers as diverse as Dr. Jane Goodall and Barry Lopez.

While in residence at the VCCA, Patricia is working on her second book, which interweaves the lives and destinies of one of the richest men in Europe in the 1890s and a penniless Russian Jew who escaped the Pale of Settlement,a western border region of Imperial Russia, and reinvented himself in America.

Patricia began her career as an interdisciplinary scholar, publishing ground-breaking feminist re-interpretations of classical myths and biblical stories.An award-winning scholar and teacher at Yale University, she left the profession, putting aside the manuscripts of two scholarly books and began to write for a broader audience.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Visit us on Facebook

Fellow Michael Janairo has created a group on facebook where Fellows may post news and events. Log in to facebook and look for his group "VCCA Fellows." The VCCA also has a facebook group, "Virginia Center for the Creative Arts." Eventually, our own web site will have a place for Fellows' notes.

Wireless Internet Access

VCCA Fellows have spoken, and we have heard you, and answered. The VCCA is working diligently to create a complete wireless network at Mt. San Angelo. That means access in the studios, bedrooms, living rooms . . .just about everywhere except the cow pastures and the walking trails! Please note, work is about 75 percent complete. Access in the W6 to W10 writers wing is ongoing.

Ariel Blumenthal Receives Residency for Israeli Artists

Composer Ariel Blumenthal is currently in residence courtesy of a Fellowship funded by Mark and Barbara Fried of Crozet, Virginia. Initiated by the Frieds to benefit an Israeli writer, composer or visual artist, the award has provided a one-month residency for Ariel, who lives and works in Los Angeles. While in residence, Ariel is completing "Izkor," a 45-minute piece for orchestra, choir and soloists commemorating the fallen soldiers and civilians in Israel's history. The piece includes classic Israeli text for "Yom Hazikaron," Israeli Memorial Day.

Ariel's work has been performed internationally, and he is the recipient of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra composition competition, and the Tel Aviv Music Academy composition competition. In the commercial world, his music had been heard in films at the 2006 Cannes, 2005 Berlin and 2005 Sundance film festivals. His orchestral work, "Rabin," was performed by the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the TICO Ochestra of San Diego. "Malachines" (Angels) was performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, "Trumpet Concerto" was performed by Israel Kibbutz Orchestra, and the chamber piece "Lebanon" was performed at the Voice of Music and the Wallonie International Festivals. He has served as the musical Director of chamber ensemble Synergy and choir Flay Shir in Los Angeles, and is affiliated with the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity and BMI.