Words and Images courtesy of the City of Williamsburg.
The Williamsburg Area Arts Commission’s grant program is now accepting applications for FY 2021-22.
The grant program funds support services for arts and cultural organizations in the Hampton Roads area. Organizations that are registered as tax-exempt nonprofits are eligible to apply for operating support.
New this year, the application process is entirely online. Grant criteria and guidelines can be found on the WAAC’s website, as well as a link to the online application. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2020.
The Williamsburg Area Arts Commission serves at the pleasure of local governments of the City of Williamsburg and James City County. The Arts Commission will review grant proposals in January, and grant awards are announced in the spring, following the adoption of local government budgets. Applicants with questions or in need of further information should contact the Commission at 757-220-6129 or by email to JSkrabala@williamsburgva.gov
Interview by BA Ciccolella. Photos courtesy of Nicole Harp, Clayton Singleton, and Norfolk Public Schools.
Last July, two local Norfolk high school Fine Arts teachers, Ms. Nicole Harp of Granby and Mr. Clayton Singleton of Lake Taylor, answered an open call to artists from the Neon District Public Art Committee. Their newly completed piece, Black Lives More Than Matter, the mural on the rear of O.J. Wholesale, also home to Black-owned business Furious Styles on the second floor, is a reflection of the current cultural climate. It is also their first large project collaboration together.
Harp and Singleton are professional artists with extensive resumes, and both show an obvious passion for their creative callings. Spotlight News was lucky enough to sit down with them for an interview where we discussed (among other things) their projects (past, present, and future), their collaboration, and their ideas on how art can be used for communication and activism.
You can reach Nicole and Clayton online using the following links:
Words and Images courtesy of the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival.
Hope House Foundation is pleased to announce that the Stockley Gardens Fall Arts Festival, sponsored by TowneBank, will be held virtually on Oct. 17 and 18. Participants will be able to view and purchase works of art and enjoy performances from the region’s favorite musicians. The virtual experience can be found at https://www.facebook.com/StockleyGardensArtsFestival/
“Hope House Foundation and Stockley Gardens Arts Festival are community focused first and foremost, so we simply cannot wait until 2021 to hold a festival,” said Festival Director Elena Montello. “While we may not be able to physically meet you at the park, we hope to recreate as many elements as possible through this virtual event.”
There will still be top-notch artists, groovy music, sponsor shout outs and plenty of nostalgia. But this time around, footsteps and hands-on browsing are out, socially distant clicks, comments and shares are in. Stay tuned for details about the entertainment schedule and a special drive-up menu from Hank’s Filing Station.
Every artist will have links to their website for purchases, and several pieces will be available through a virtual auction. Emerging artists will also be included in the festival.
Proceeds from the Stockley Gardens Arts Festivals support the programs of Hope House Foundation, the first organization in Virginia to provide support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities exclusively in their own homes. The spring and fall festivals, the largest fundraiser for the organization, generate $80,000 that is used to provide necessities for the people who receive services such as assistance with food, medical expenses, dental care, clothing and housing. With both festivals being impacted by COVID-19, we invite people to become friends of Stockley to help us continue our mission. For more information, visit StockleyGardens.com or call (757) 625-6161.
Words and Images courtesy of Moriah Joy. Feature image: Titus Kaphar, Columbus Day Painting
There is the notion that art museums are grandiose images of women baring their bodies somewhere in the woods, or that one has to be of a certain pedigree or education level to fully enjoy them. However, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art throws all those preconceived notions out the door. Not only are pieces extremely relevant and relatable, the staff prides themselves on making art accessible to everyone. Back in May of this year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Brad Tuggle, the Director of Audience Development, about the digital offerings they had to keep the community engaged with their amazing artists even though the physical galleries were not open. This past week, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Truly Matthews, the Curator of Education for MOCA, after touring the exhibits. During my tour, I took photos of some of the most impactful and eye catching pieces. However, the pieces are far more intricate and textured in person than can be conveyed by photographs.
One of the things that I learned in my conversation with Truly was MOCA is a non-collecting museum, meaning that any pieces that enter their doors are only there for a short period of time as they travel to different museums. Depending upon when you go and the exhibits they have on display, you may see anywhere from one to three exhibits in their main gallery space. Currently, the Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of the Black and Hispanic Body in Contemporary Art and New Waves 2020 (a statewide competition) are sharing the main gallery space, with Hampton Boyer’s first solo show on display in the gallery near the atrium. The reason why this was intriguing to me was because as you go through the natural path of the museum, each exhibit provokes a different reaction from the viewer.
“Art is a catalyst for conversation.”- Truly Matthews
The Shifting Gaze exhibit commands the attention of the viewer as each piece pulls you in to analyze the details and the story. This feeling is beautifully described by artist Ebony G. Patterson, who is a part of the Shifting Gaze exhibit, as the Flower and the Bee Syndrome, where the viewer (bee) is drawn to the art (flower) either because of its provocative nature or aesthetic beauty. We stay with that piece until we have drawn all the emotional needs or thoughts from it and then move onto the next one. Each piece in this show pulled on a different emotion for me. The pieces by Carlos Vega and Mickalene Thomas are eye-catching because of their sheer magnitude but really connect with themes of pride in the small pieces of who they are.
Since Shifting Gaze has a cohesive theme to the show it makes it easier to understand the creative intention behind each piece. With the New Waves and Hampton Boyer exhibits, the viewer is drawn to the initial reaction of the pieces, but sometimes needs to rely upon the outside resources to fully grasp the intention of the piece. Truly explained that one of the areas they focus on heavily in their shows and programming is incorporating the artist’s voice so that there is no misunderstanding of their artist process. This is done in a few different ways. In the New Waves gallery, they have direct quotes on placards that are the artist statements submitted with the pieces as a part of the competition. For Hampton Boyer, there is an audio tour which he recorded for the viewer to hear him directly explain his work. During virtual programming, most of the time they try to have the artist be present during talkbacks for them to explain or discuss the social and emotional impact of the piece.
The museum offers many educational opportunities both in exploring art and being able to create your own. They have a variety of art classes offered through their studio school available for ages 6-99. Some classes offered include the Art of Storytelling, Basic Drawing Techniques, Abstract Art, Oil/ Acrylic Painting, and Photography Made Simple. For more information on these classes please visit https://virginiamoca.org/studio-school
The museum will also be re-opening the interactive portion of their gallery called Art Lab. In this section, viewers have a chance to interact with the pieces in a now contactless environment. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen with Art Lab because of COVID,” explained Truly, “so the installation took a little more time, and we had to adapt it to fit safety guidelines, but we’re super excited to finally have it open back up.” For those planning a trip soon, the Art Lab will reopen on September 3rd.
With all of the programming available, the level of social engagement and commitment to the community, as well as the beauty of the building and exhibition space, MOCA is becoming one of my new favorite places in the Hampton Roads area. Check it out for yourself and see what you can discover.
Currently, the museum entrance fee is waived due to very gracious donors, however, you do have to reserve tickets in advance to allow for proper social distancing. To schedule your free tour please visit their website. For a closer look at the exhibits and discussions with the artists check out their Instagram. Audio tours are available in both English and Spanish.
Words by Louise Casini Hollis. Photos courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach.
Barrel: a tube, the curl of the wave, the hollow part of a wave when it is breaking, and one of the most sought after things in surfing.
“Art is just so easy because there is no language, no nothing,” says Alexandra Gonzales President and Co-Founder of HIVE, and the artist behind Barreled a new interactive sculpture near the Oceanfront, “there’s just being involved with the piece itself.” Barreled, along with its companion piece Broken Current, by local muralist Navid Rahman, is the newest enhancement to the Oceanfront. Located at 17th St. and Pacific, the project was originally to be installed just before the Something in the Water festival back in April. Needless to say, the installation was pushed back to August for the safety of all involved.
The project was set in motion 2 years ago when Virginia Beach’s Public Arts and Placemaking Coordinator Nina Goodale and her team sent out a national call for artists to submit proposals. “We received some really amazing proposals from all around the country, and in the selection process we included the community, and what really struck everyone was the fact that it really spoke to the surf history of Virginia Beach that we’re known for, and she really captured it beautifully,” said Nina. Alexandra shared that the inspiration for Barreled came as she sat down with Charlie Osorio, a design collaborator with HIVE, and they brainstormed what they thought of when they think of Virginia Beach. “I always think of Virginia Beach as a surfing town,” said Alexandra, and this thinking led them to ask, “What is that one moment you seek within surfing, and how can we make that moment last?”
What came out of asking that question became a collaboration with the community. “When we saw the site there was a white wall behind it,” explained Alexandra, “so I said, ‘We have to include this into the scope.’ Of course, from the city side, they didn’t have any additional funds to be able to add another piece, so I started reaching out to local businesses. They came together and helped us put together the funding to get the materials for the piece. Some business owners encouraged others to donate. It was great to see everyone coming together despite a very difficult financial year. So HIVE public space ended up covering the fee for the artist and the business community covered all of the materials.” Kate Pittman, Secretary of the ViBe District, connected Alexandra and company with Navid Raham, a local artist who is known for Jewel the Mermaid and Seasons in Norfolk’s Neon district, Crown Shyness in downtown Norfolk, the mural in the Bayside Recreation Center, and numerous other projects in restaurants and private businesses throughout Norfolk, Richmond, D.C., and even New York City.
Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Navid immigrated with his family in the early 90’s to Virginia Beach. His mother’s first business, a gift shop, was on the corner of 18th and Atlantic, so he was familiar with the area. “After the lot became open and the wall got repaired and prepped I would just say in passing, ‘Someone’s got to do that one. It’s perfect!’ I feel like a lot of people who paint outside look at good spots to paint. I’ve got a camera roll of walls that would be great, just in case,” Navid shared. When creating Broken Current, he drew inspiration from Hokusai’s woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
“The fact that it was someone who had been thinking specifically about this site was fantastic,” said Alexandra. Still, on HIVE’s end, important structural questions needed to be considered. “We knew that we had to go with something that had transparency, but also because we were excited about the colors that would be cast from the shadows,” said Alexandra. “So actually when you are on site, when you see all of the blues and then the panels – where all the different panels intersect – like the deeper blues – it’s a really beautiful way of capturing everything and using the natural resources: the sun, being out in the field. [It’s meant] to give you the same feeling and a little bit of the movement and fluidity that you get from water.”
Another question Alexandra and her team had to answer was how to create durability. “Usually art installations that are outdoors get a little bit more abuse than something would at a museum,” explained Alexandra. “You’re designing with the worst case scenario: someone is going to be jumping on it and things like that, so you have to overdesign for durability. Then because we are so close to the ocean and all of the salt, we knew we had to go with a powder coating for the structure, essentially you bake the paint, for lack of a better word, so it’s a lot more durable. And then when it came to the acrylic panels, we knew that we wanted that because it is about capturing the moment within the wave, the barrel. We actually did just a little bit more to make sure it was super secure because it is by the water and sometimes you get those high winds.” Although the project was commissioned for a two year installation, Alexandra says the sculpture is, “designed to last. It’s just a matter of whether or not the lot is still available, or other things that are a little bit beyond something we can do.”
Collaboration with a local artist was important to Alexandra. An immigrant herself, from Medellin, Colombia, Alexandra earned a B.F.A. and a Bachelor’s in Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design and her Master’s of Science degree in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University and has worked at several architectural and planning firms in Manhattan over the last 10 years including Bryant Park Corporation and the 34th Street Partnership, where she serves as the Senior Urban Designer for both companies. Even though she had done extensive research on surfing and Virginia Beach, Alexandra felt having a local artist’s perspective was valuable, “to make sure that the project feels like it’s appropriate, feels like it belongs in there, and that we’re not just coming in and dropping something that is not relevant to the community,” she explained. Alexandra went on to describe how HIVE started with a sketch that gave Navid a direction for Broken Current. “The color was one that was very heavily influenced – one from the other – so we knew that we had some blues, so then we sort of picked a blue that would be vibrant and that would kind of complement the colors in his. We knew that we wanted the colors to be super vibrant, so it was about choosing the right complementary colors which sort of give you that movement sense which is exactly which we were going for. Then he introduced some angular pieces which are more reflective to our sculpture. There was a lot of back and forth between the two of us and I’d say we were both collaborating on both pieces.”
Barreled has ADA ramps on either side and the sculptural pieces are spaced 6 foot apart. This not only allows for proper social distancing, but also for wheelchair accessibility. “It’s not just about something looking good, it’s about how we can make sure that everyone’s safe,” notes Alexandra. Additionally, “each one of the arches has a seating component to it. Some of them being larger, some of them being a little bit smaller, so that everyone can safely take their selfies, but while still maintaining a social distance,” Alexandra adds. The ability to create “Instagram Moments” is also something Alexandra takes into consideration when designing. “We essentially design thinking of how we can make this more photogenic because we know that’s essentially what it will end up to be,” she explained. “As an urban designer, my focus is solely on public spaces, this is what I do every day. So I’m very hyper sensitive to those things,” she added.
“It really ended up being even better than we could have imagined,” said Nina Goodale. “We’re grateful for all the community enthusiasm and support on it.”
The beautiful thing about a public art installation is that you can visit it any time of day and always catch new inspiration from different seasons, weather, and viewing angles. And right now, when outdoors is one of the safest places to social distance, public spaces create opportunities to interact with the world. “I’m hoping what will come out of all of this is that we begin to really invest and appreciate our public spaces more. I think [public spaces] could be a catalyst for change, a catalyst for transformation, and they really get us to make our cities better and make spaces for people to come to and become more active,” Alexandra stated.
“This is my gift to the city,” concludes Alexandra. “We want to leave this here with them. We want them to celebrate. In art it’s so important because it’s not just about beautifying something – a place – it’s really about how does [art] allow [the space] to transform and to make the place better.”
Want to experience Barreled and Broken Current in person? Just venture down to the Oceanfront at 17th St. and Pacific and share your moment with the hashtags #Barreled #BrokenCurrent #vbarts #vbpublicart #vabeacharts. Not in the area? Check out VB Arts Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
Words by Penny Neef. Images courtesy of Andrew Cooper, City of Norfolk (including featured image), and David Neef.
Almost a year ago, pre-pandemic, worry-free, and full of the joy of travel, I was in Rome. Rome was the last stop on our fantastic trip through the gardens of Italy. I’d been to Rome once before, as a poor college student. I walked the circumference of the Vatican, but only had enough money to do everything free. This time, I was determined to see inside the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. More about that later.
This year, no travel, lots of worries, no Rome, but the magnificent art of the Sistine Chapel is right here, in Norfolk, at the MacArthur Mall. The Virginia Arts Festival and MacArthur Mall are co-presenting Michelangelo’s Frescoes of the Sistine Chapel August 7-30.
This is the first complete exhibition of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes to be shown outside the Vatican. The exhibit is officially licensed by the Vatican. Michelangelo’s frescoes have been photographed in high resolution and reproduced in close to life size. The very best part about the exhibit is you can get up close. The details and colors are amazing. The Master’s sketch marks and brush strokes are right there in front of you. The genius of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564) is apparent.
Back to my trip to Rome, which seems so much longer than a year ago. We booked an evening, after hours “private tour” of the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel as the grand finale of the tour. I pictured empty galleries with a small group and an Italian art historian pointing out details of the artistic treasures of the Vatican.
What a disappointment. Our “private tour” was one of about a thousand private tours that night. We were herded like cattle through the wonders of the Vatican Museum, with barely enough time to stop and look. The worst of it was the magnificent Sistine Chapel. We were warned before we walked in that there would be no photos and no talking. We were not told that there would be a Vatican guard, standing on a platform in the corner on a microphone, yelling at people if they spoke or heaven forbid, pulled out their phone.
It was so crowded in the Sistine Chapel, that we could not move. We could barely look up to the ceiling 70 feet above us. I had such claustrophobia that I could hardly wait to get out. I saw little and appreciated nothing.
I went to the Sistine Chapel at the mall yesterday. I know, I know, MacArthur Mall is not the Vatican Museum and Norfolk is not Rome, but people, we’re in a pandemic. There was a lot to love. The exhibit is set up in the old Forever 21 store on the second level of the Mall, next to Dillard’s. It’s a pretty space, light and bright, with shiny black and white floors and chandeliers.
There is no guard yelling at you to keep quiet. Instead, you will be greeted by a nice person wearing a mask. There will be a limited number of people allowed in at a time, absolutely no crowd. Your phone will take you straight to a website where you can take your time and read about each panel and piece of the Sistine Chapel artwork.
You can stand close and be amazed at the details. You can step back and appreciate the dynamics of the piece as a whole. You do not have to crane your neck, squint your eyes and stare up 70 feet. I learned so much more about each story from the Bible that Michelangelo, the “reluctant painter” took on, mostly alone, over the course of more than four years.
This was the first time I’ve been to MacArthur Mall this year. It’s sad that so many stores have closed, but the Mall looks good. There are some bargains to be had if you miss shopping. While you’re there, take a mall walk down to the old entrance to Nordstrom’s and take a selfie in front of the three, fun artworks by Kelsey Montague that the mall commissioned last year.
Don’t miss Michelangelo’s Frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. The art is fantastic. You can imagine, just for a few minutes, that you are in Rome, with a much better view of the Sistine Chapel ceiling than anyone except Michelangelo.
Words by Louise Casini Hollis. Images courtesy of Camille Donne.
Peninsula Fine Arts Center/ Art Teacher 2 Go
It may appear that the world has shut down, but the teaching artists of Hampton Roads have taken this opportunity to flourish online with a multitude of opportunities for students to stay connected during the pandemic. In an ongoing series, Spotlight HR is talking to artists and arts organizations around Hampton Roads about their experiences in engaging with students online.
Camille Donne, Education Director at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center and the teacher in Art Teacher 2 Go has been learning a whole new set of skills during quarantine. Working from her home in Newport News, she continues to reach out to Hampton Roads students virtually. “I’ve learned how to use Facebook Live, learned how to use editing software and how to make movies, and have learned how to use video and computer equipment,” Camille shares. Besides becoming tech savvy, Camille has also learned to troubleshoot technical issues. “I couldn’t [set up] in front of my windows because that made me a silhouette, so I had to set up a home theatre….I made my own greenscreen in my son’s bedroom and I’ve learned green screen. I just covered my son’s wall with green construction paper and purchased a greenscreen app!”
Her resourceful problem solving skills come as no surprise to anyone who knows this teacher. “I try to troubleshoot everything,” Camille explains. “So somebody might not have watercolors. So I [figured out] how to make watercolors with food coloring and water. You can use markers and get those wet and then those are like water colors,” she adds. As for teaching a drawing lesson, Camille says, “it’s almost like I’m doing it blindly. I’m talking to an audience I can’t interact with. So I have to think, ‘What problem could somebody have with this?’ So I try to think through all of it, so that I can say, ‘I know you’re probably thinking this is how you do it. Let me show you again from another view’.”
Camille has been teaching now for over 20 years. Her passion for teaching comes from her resilience. “My confidence was squashed by a few negative teachers in elementary and middle school,” explains Camille. “By the time I entered high school (and for the first years of college) I was afraid to sign up for studio art classes and took art history classes instead. I became a teacher so that I could encourage students to embrace their creativity and let it shine.”
After graduating from CNU, Camille wanted to work as an art therapist, but there weren’t many art therapy jobs available, so her interest in history led her to working at Colonial Williamsburg. “I’ve always loved museums,” explained Camille, “and so I worked in costume at Colonial Williamsburg and I taught at the governor’s palace and I worked with children and I just loved it.” Her love of children led her to become a classroom teacher for Newport News Public Schools where she taught 3rd grade and 4th grade at South Morrison Elementary for 5 years. She also co-taught special education, before leaving to be a stay-at-home Mom.
Five years later, when Camille decided to go back to work she, “just happened to be looking online and I saw that PFAC was hiring and they needed somebody with a museum background and education background and an art background. I was like, ‘that is me!’” And I’ve been there almost 6 years and I just love it. It’s been the perfect job for me,” beams Camille. Currently, Camille “puts together art activities and lessons for families to do with what they have at home,” and posts them on PFAC’s blog, PFAC’s Facebook page, and her ArtTeacher2Go website.
“I’m making sure they wouldn’t have to go out and buy anything. And I’m doing a weekly story time with an art activity, and I’m doing art activities that reinforce the SOLs.” These lessons, called ArtStart, can be seen live on Wednesdays at 10:30 will continue through June 30th. The videos may be found on all the platforms above to view at a later time if you cannot tune in for her weekly lessons.
One of the challenges Camille has adjusted to is that she can’t see her students. To remedy this she asks them, “Can you please post something so that I know that you can see me?” Another thing she has learned through filming her lessons is that, “it’s harder to maintain the person’s attention. [Also] you can see a face or you can see what they’re doing, but it’s really hard to see both at the same time. And what you’re seeing is often – if you’re looking at the face and then transfer to what they’re doing – it’s upside down, so that’s hard, too” she adds. Filming lessons has been a learning curve for Camille, too. For example, when she taught her lesson Owl Babies ArtStart , she realized the image on film was upside down. To remedy this, she drew the owl upside down on her end so the image would be right-side up to the viewer.
Online summer camps will begin June 16th at Peninsula Fine Arts Center, and hopefully later in the summer students will be welcomed for camps in person if the Governor’s orders allow. Camille has set up all the themes for the summer camps which will be run by the Contemporary Arts Network gallery this summer. Unfortunately for PFAC, Camille will be leaving her position as Education Director June 30th so that she may spend more time with her son who is on the Autism spectrum, but she will continue to teach as the Art Teacher 2 Go.
Camille has a great deal of experience working with people who are autistic and with people who have dementia, and finds giving them the opportunity to make art quite fulfilling. She is looking forward to having the opportunity to work with differently-abled people though Art Teacher 2 Go. Numerous studies, such as a 2016 study done by Drexel University show that drawing and painting reduce the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in adults. Creating art also benefits children with autism and helps them, “improve eye contact, the relationship between cause and effect with signals, emotional expressions, and contextual instructions” as noted by Zulkifi in her article “The Wonders and Benefits of Art for Children With Autism.”
Camille’s next chapter begins this Fall as she expands her business Art Teacher 2 Go. Being an entrepreneur will allow her more flexibility in her schedule and the opportunity to reach more students by going to their meeting spaces. Camille will be teaching three different homeschool co-ops and has partnered with Girl Scouts of America to teach all of their art badges. Also, she will be available to teach art-themed birthday parties, and to facilitate lessons at retirement homes and specialty camps. Additionally, she hopes to add ceramics into her teaching later in the year. Want an art lesson? Camille will also be available for private lessons- she will provide the supplies and can even come to you.
In the future, Camille says she will seek opportunities to teach online more often. “I would have never thought of doing an online class – ever- but now I’ve learned how to do it, and it’s not scary anymore. I want to add more videos into my work, since I’ve learned how to do it and it’s not as tough as I thought it was, so I’d like to incorporate that more.”
No matter where Camille teaches, her mission is, “to be the teacher that I never had. I get so much joy seeing a student beam with pride after creating something. My goal is to make art attainable to everyone— both the pure joy of creativity and appreciation of other people’s talents.” Thankfully, Camille will continue to inspire artists both young and old for many years to come.
Words by Moriah Joy. Images Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department.
The arts are an even better barometer of what is happening in our world than the stock market or the debates in Congress. – Hendrik Willem Van Loon
There is a large amount of debate on what is the best way to handle the re-opening of the economy as many sectors have been hit and are eager to get back to business. While there are many questions we need to ask ourselves in preparation for potential re-opening, we should also be asking those same questions to our state and local governments. How can the public help local businesses bounce back? More importantly, how can we keep the general public healthy while enjoying spaces that are typically difficult to maintain social distancing? The Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department has been working diligently to keep the arts and cultural centers from falling subject to shutdown as so many other cities have had to do in these unfortunate times. Cultural Affairs in VB has grown over the last twenty years from a single person division to a department aiding the growth of our local arts, cultural, and historic sectors.
Hillary Plate, who serves as their Cultural Programming and Grants Coordinator, discussed how her job has changed since the shutdown as the day-to-day is more focused on the preservation of the arts until there is stability for growth again. One of the most important aspects of her job has included growing public programming with the help of various libraries, parks, and history museums to allow citizens to engage with various arts community activities for free.
“[For the Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department], our goal is to stand by our arts community because we know that they don’t just create community and emotional and entertainment impact, we know they contribute economic impact to this area. We need to ensure that they are resilient and well-equipped.”
While their team may be few in people, there is a large sense of passion for the arts and the artists in Virginia Beach. This was clear as Hillary discussed the big goals for the community in addition to the success of their programs so far in generating revenue. “Something really important to make note of about our team- our small team,” they have less than ten full time employees working with part time and volunteers, “develops initiatives that proactively grow an $87.7 million arts industry in Virginia Beach and that industry returns over $7 million to local and state budgets. They support and employ 4,773 people in the Virginia Beach arts industry. ”
The arts in Virginia Beach also account for almost 60% of the tourism revenue, which is an incredible amount considering that creative industries only make up 4.8% of the total businesses in Virginia Beach. As the area has become more of a hub for the arts and citizens have become more vocal about their need for artistic programming, there has been an increase of creative industries by 25% in the last five years. Thankfully, the budget for FY2021 was recently passed by the Virginia Beach City Council and the Arts and Humanities Commission funding remains intact.
One of the main ways that the Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department is continuing to grow the arts during shutdown is by creating virtual content for various organizations. This is being accomplished by a high engagement in online platforms by either filming educational videos for the history museums or serving as a megaphone to smaller organizations who are providing various services during this time. Marketing Coordinator, Alex Dye, is the newest member of their team and has been focusing on this project with tenacity. So far he has assisted various spaces like MOCA and Symphonicity in gathering a larger social media net to share not only resources but some joy amidst uncertain times. The hope is that they will continue to use social media to engage with the community by using it as a way to announce various projects such as Alex’s recent interview with Daniel Boothe where they also announced Symphonicity’s upcoming season.
Another important piece of their work that often gets overlooked is their work with cultural centers. In the last census, Virginia Beach had 100 districts and within each district there were at least ten different countries of origin represented. These cultural groups often use performing arts, visual arts, and music as a tool for education and as a way to build cultural understanding. At the moment, they also provide a great place of connectivity for those who are otherwise isolated.
The other project that they have been working on with urgency and diligence is creating a resources page for artists impacted by COVID-19. The website covers a wide range of artistic categories and are subdivided for easy navigation. The page provides different websites for grant applications, resources for teaching, recovery resources, and more. They are updating the website continuously as new information comes, making it easier to navigate the uncertainty.
At the moment, the Cultural Affairs Department is also working to find ways to assess low risk and high risk criteria for venues in order to help them navigate the new guidelines and procedures. They are even taking it a step further by utilizing online platforms to create PSAs for local organizations. This means that as things begin to open up, they intend to go through the spaces and create videos for the public to help them understand the precautions each venue is taking to keep their patrons’ health and safety a priority.
“You can put [guidelines] down on a list and those might make someone comfortable but if you see someone walking through it humanizes the experience of having to go through those new steps,” said Plate, “Looking ahead, we’re very eager to resume our public programing but we’re awaiting a time when we can safely bring it back following recommendations from the state, federal, and city experts.”
As the department is always thinking of ways to better our community, one of the things to look forward to in the near future includes a call to artists network. This would essentially be used as a way for touring artists to seek out substitutes for various positions or network with similar performers. In addition, it would serve as a place for local casting calls and grants to be posted, making the time consuming task of searching for local opportunities practically non-existent.
The Department also wants to make sure that those who give time and/ or money to support these artistic organizations and the future of the arts are adequately recognized. They have been doing this by creating the Champion for the Arts award. The nominations are open until June 1st, 2020 for anyone who has made an impact in Virginia Beach’s vibrant cultural and arts community.
While there is no concrete timeline at the moment for many in-person arts experiences to return, the Cultural Affairs Department has been doing their part to ensure that when the doors do open that both performer and audience are safe. Many performers and local organizations are doing their best at this time to provide content and entertainment to keep community engagement high but also serve as a reminder of the light they shine.
“Virtual events are wonderful and they’re a great way to connect with a wider audience but that even still has its own barriers. There are people who don’t necessarily have access and while you have [videos like the Hamilton Zoom videos] it’s the great law of improv, ‘Yes, And’. Yes, these virtual videos are great and we need the live theatre still,” Plate continued, “There’s an energy that is passed between the audience and the artist that is irreplaceable.”
For more information on the Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department, their programming, local arts organizations, resources, or nominating a Champion for the Arts please visit their website. For ideas on additional arts resources please email email@example.com.
Words by Moriah Joy. Images courtesy of the artists (as listed). Featured Image: Emily Hughes, Touch Series #1, 2019 Gouache on card stock
Many have found comfort in the arts in these troubled times, whether that’s engaging in free classes online, tuning into watch various streaming shows, or finding different arts activities to keep the kids occupied. The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art has gone one step further to make all of these available in one place. Since the museum had to close its doors to the public in late March, their creative team has managed to launch a virtual museum website and keep the community engaged.
The website features various educational tools, activities (new ones released every Friday), and videos about the artists and their work exclusively for MOCA. Brad Tuggle, the Director of Audience Development at MOCA, discussed their solution to the shut down. “My job with MOCA as marketing director is to bring people in… so we had to get creative. Thankfully we have an amazing team here and they were able to get the website together in eight days to launch- it’s grown a lot since then.”
There are four exhibitions available for preview on their website; “New Waves”, “Shifting Gaze”, “Hampton Boyer”, and “Past 10 Years”. The “Past 10 Years” exhibition is exclusively available through the website and features various works the museum has had on display within the past decade. The “New Waves” exhibition features the work of 29 Virginia artists as a contest hosted by the museum. The museum has called upon the talents of Susan Thompson, who is the Associate Curator at the Guggenheim, to select and judge the pieces for the show.
“We had over 1,500 artists apply with almost 19,000 works and narrowed it down to 29 artists and pieces, so you can imagine what a difficult task Susan had,” said Tuggle.
The contest has been put on hold as part of the contest calls for Susan to see the works in person, which has yet to happen. Whenever the museum opens back up, she will judge the collections and give out various prizes as well as a grand prize. In the meantime, you can see the collection and vote for your favorite piece in the exhibition.
“The Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of the Black & Hispanic Body in Contemporary Art” is a truly unique exhibition. The pieces are a collection from Dr. Robert B. Feldman. Dr. Feldman’s interest in upcoming artists has made the exhibition a beautiful progression of the work of various artists along with a shift in the lens of Black and Hispanic self-reflection. The collection is truly a sight to behold as it features different mediums each with a clear and powerful impact on the viewer.
Hampton Boyer is a local artist living in Norfolk with a studio in Hampton (which he is named after). He has been working with MOCA for a little over a year and has collaborated with them on various projects such as the mural leading up to the entrance of the museum. His exhibition was specifically created for the museum and features all new work.
Thankfully MOCA has worked with the collectors and the other museums where the exhibitions were supposed to be moving to in August and have extended their stay to January of 2021.
MOCA is going one step further with their community engagement as they are launching their Instagram takeover tomorrow, Thursday, May 7th. Through Instagram they will be hosting various meet and greets with artists as well as exclusive looks into their studios. The next two Instagram Live Chats with the museum will feature Annie Layne (May 8th @ 4pm) and Ryan McGinness (May 14th @ 6:30pm).
The museum also hosts “Coffee and Conversation” once per month with Curator, Heather Hakimzadeh, featuring a new special guest each time. Before the pandemic, they hosted the event in person at the museum and, like many other programs, have since moved to Zoom. This past “Coffee and Conversation” was their most attended with 27 people on the Zoom call as they discussed the work of Michael Kagan with a NASA employee. MOCA intends to keep their virtual website operational to keep community engagement attainable for everyone.
“Sometimes people aren’t able to visit the museum because of finances, time, or they may live out of state,” said Tuggle, “or they don’t want to come because of the stigma that often comes with museums. However, through [the website and other resources] hopefully people will see that it is accessible and that art is for everyone.”
For those who wish to help the museum continue arts education in the community during these difficult times, they are fundraising with the help of Virginia Beach artist, Michael Kagan. The fundraiser will feature a piece that was specifically painted for Michael Kagan’s father. He has been very generous and is allowing MOCA exclusive rights to the print with all of the funds going to the museum. Only 200 prints are available for purchase and will be going on sale tomorrow for $500 each.
Brad hopes that art has brought people comfort through the chaos and he is excited to see what pieces will be coming to the museum that have been inspired by this time. He is also excited to see the community continue to connect through the arts both in person when the museum opens and through their virtual ventures.
For a tour of their virtual museum as well as educational tools and more information on the artists please visit the Virtual MOCA website.
For more information about their Instagram Live events please follow them on Instagram @VirginiaMOCA.
For updates on the museums reopening, making a donation, or purchasing an exclusive Michael Kagan print please visit their website.