Now, if you’ve ever been to the state (or have seen bumper stickers around the East Coast), you’re probably familiar with the slogan, “Virginia is for lovers” — but did you know that Virginia is for artists, too?
Yep, The Old Dominion State has a lot more to offer than scenic beaches, beautiful countryside, and bustling industry. In fact, the popular city of Norfolk, Virginia has one of the most flourishing art scenes in the state. “Any space, whether on a building wall, a house, a shed or even a sidewalk, can be transformed into a stunning display by local artists whose love for the city is obvious in every way,” the Visit Norfolk website reads. “With self-guided tours aplenty, and even guided tours focused on Norfolk’s NEON District, Norfolk’s art scene is not to be missed.”
That’s why we’ve put together this short list of some of the coolest, most interesting pieces of street art and places to check out art in Norfolk, specifically in the city’s NEON district. “Norfolk’s first arts district was once known as ‘Auto Row’ with countless classic car dealerships lining the streets and setting it aglow with their neon-colored lights,” NEON Norfolk’s website explains. “Now, The NEON District, or New Energy of Norfolk, is home to a new wave of passion and creativity in downtown. It began with a small group of engaged citizens and has quickly grown into a flourishing living canvas with culture, cuisine, and craftsmen.”
Some of our favorite, can’t-miss murals include:
- Razzle Dazzle, a brightly colored piece and one of the first large-scale murals in the NEON District.
- Labor of Love, a take on an EKG heartbeat graph featuring the artist’s own handwriting and gorgeous neon lights.
- Bloom, which features prominent white fangs contrasted by bright pink flowers in the background.
- Solidarity, a political commentary piece inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, is painted on a unique material — a shed!
- Art Benches, found throughout the NEON district, the Governor’s School for the Arts students hand-painted six stunning seats for sidewalks in the neighborhood.
- NEONing, aka color accents and wayfinding on streets and sidewalks in the Arts District, was the brainchild of local artist Joan Biddle, who led teams of volunteers to brighten up the roads.
- The Dance, by Amelia Langford, takes advantage of a coat of existing yellow paint on the side of a building to give her black-and-white nature scene warmth and complexity.
Some other notable arts spaces and events include:
- Glass Wheel Studio is a contemporary art facility in the heart of The NEON, which features two rotating galleries in a recently renovated 8,500-square-foot space. Free and open to the public, it aims to encourage artists across all disciplines to pursue and elevate their craft.
- The NEON Festival has been going strong for more than seven years, and serves as a free, two-evening event where locals and visitors alike can explore and discover the arts district.
- The Chrysler Museum of Art has a whopping fifty galleries, an ever-growing collection of over 30,000 objects, an interactive space for the whole family, and the only glass studio of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region. Oh, and admission is free!
- The d’Art Center is a community art center founded in 1986, and continues to serve the city with three galleries, resident artist studios, and multiple activity rooms. The Main Gallery and Vault are rotated monthly with new, nationally curated exhibitions, while the Artist Wing displays work from local artists in the community.
After you’re done checking out all the awesome street art Norfolk has to offer, you’ll probably have an appetite — don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. For an incredible dinner and evening spent on the water, check out the signature dinner cruise along the Elizabeth River, where you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner buffet with freshly prepared entrees, salads, and desserts, all while taking in spectacular views of the Navy’s mighty Atlantic Fleet. There’s also onboard entertainment with DJ music, access to lounge spaces, and interactive games.