The founders and editors of Hampton Roads' digital alternative press AltDaily submitted The NEAD (Norfolk Emerging Arts District) Project to Norfolk City Hall, and lit the first spark of many efforts to bring to fruition a vision of Norfolk's first official Arts District.
The city of Norfolk commissioned Dallas-based urban planning firm Better Block to deliver a stretch of Granby Street just north of Brambleton Avenue from a dilapidated eyesore into a thriving arts destination. Over the course of four days, hundreds of volunteers came together to give visitors a vision of what the block could be, complete with galleries, murals, live performances, pop-up retail, food vendors and more. The event was a huge success, and served as the spark for the official commissioning of the Norfolk Arts District.
Fresh off the heels of Better Block, Alchemy NFK moved into an old furniture store and car dealership in the heart of the newly christened arts district and transformed it into a workspace for artists, musicians, designers and anyone eager to experience and support Norfolk’s creative community. Comprised of artists’ studios, rehearsal rooms, videography labs, screen printing booths, meeting spaces and more, Alchemy quickly became the district’s anchor and stays committed to embracing, entertaining and educating all that come through its doors.
Nationally renowned family theater troupe The Hurrah Players purchased the former Sutton Manufacturing building and began work on reimagining the 12,000+ square foot space into a premier rehearsal studio for their ever growing educational program, as well as a fully-outfitted creation workshop for performance scenery and props. Their new façade is unveiled in Fall 2015.
C. Arthur "Brother" Rutter III, his wife, Meredith, along with his law partner Robert Mills purchased the former Texaco Building, promising to fill the District’s largest footprint with art exhibits and galleries, artist housing, and a mid-sized venue for hosting live performances. Their first planned exhibition is called “AGLOW”, and it focuses on works created from the District’s new namesake — NEON.
Alchemy NFK and The Pushers Comedy Group came together for “Kickstart Norfolk,” an online-only fundraising effort that featured live music, comedy, demonstrations and art. With the help of local advertising agency Sway Creative Labs (and a few promised pies to the face), the pair of NEON District businesses collectively raised over $20,000 with one of the country’s first “web-a-thons.”
Based on the so-called “dazzle patterns” painted on battleships during World War I to make them more difficult to target, Kuszyk’s mural on the side of Bob’s Gun Shop immediately becomes a brilliantly colorful and electric beacon in the District.
Florentijn Hofman’s “Rubber Duck” drifted down the Hague in the spring of ‘14 to commemorate the grand re-opening of the Chrysler Museum. The 10x11x13 meter inflatable work of art had brought smiles and selfies to Sydney, Hong Kong, Osaka, Sao Paulo and other host cities before landing in Norfolk. Nearly 150,000 people found their way to duck and district — sadly, Ernie didn’t show.
After a 16 month hiatus for renovations and expansion totaling nearly $24 million, the cornerstone of Norfolk’s art community re-opened to a flood of anxious visitors. From antiquities to contemporary and interactive pieces; quintessentially American works to those from across the globe, The Chrysler Museum of Art is back and better than ever. And with the addition of the amazing Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, people from Hampton Roads and beyond are getting fired up about this district destination.
With ground breaking on Downtown Norfolk’s new Hilton Hotel and Convention Center, its temporary park “The Plot” needed a new home. With the help of dozens of volunteers, the entire park (shipping containers included) was transplanted to the corner of Granby and Olney. It’s since become a central commonplace for the District’s creatives, encouraging buskers, impromptu performances and meetups.
Owner of the District staple “The Beauty Parlor” Quincy Brown decided to up the ante in his investment in the burgeoning NEON District with the opening of its first cafe and event venue. The Parlor on Granby features a unique and changing menu of gourmet comfort food, a selection of local spirits, coffee, art, live music and more.
Founded by local comedy troupe The Pushers, the Push Comedy Theater plans to bring the best local and national comedy acts to the District. The 90 seat venue regularly hosts live sketch, improv and stand-up comedy while also offering instructional comedy and acting classes.
Zeke’s Beans and Bowls, a Virginia Beach haven for coffee and creativity is bringing their eclectic brand of Hawaiian style poke bowls and local bean blends to Norfolk. The shop will also continue their tradition of bringing in exceptional artists to feature, and planning amazing events that bring together vendors, visitors and vagrants.
Norfolk's Emerging Art + Design District
The NEON District hopes to harness the new energy of Norfolk by providing local and touring artists and musicians a place to burn bright. Norfolk’s first official arts district has plenty of events to enjoy and opportunities to get involved. Check out the events calendar and volunteer board below to learn more.
@ Chrysler Museum, One Memorial Place, Norfolk, VA 23510 | 01.30.16 - 07.31.16
Using minimalist blown-glass forms, Norwood Viviano explores how the rise and decline of industry helps tells the story of urban America, and how those industrial changes altered the face of city landscapes.Learn More