Virginia Beach (VB) kicked off its inaugural mural festival this past weekend in the city’s ViBE Creative District. The ViBE, which runs parallel to the oceanfront, has recruited ten artists to paint ten murals over ten days. The festival, sponsored by Towne Bank, has recruited a roster of notable artists from Hampton Roads, Richmond, and from as far away as California and Connecticut. According to the organizers, there were a total of 88 artist submissions from “12 states across the country as well as 10 different cities in Virginia.” The ten property owners selected the mural that would adorn their building from a pool of over 300 submissions.
Virginia Beach has a steady arts tradition from the Museum of Contemporary Art to the annual Board Walk Art Show, yet unlike their sister city, Norfolk, there has not been a strong effort to bring wall art to the Resort City until now. And what little wall art there is, has a decidedly military angle to it: planes, soldiers, flags, and service dogs.
RVA Mag headed down to Virginia Beach to catch the launch weekend and take the vibe (zing!) of the art going up. With the ViBE’s mural project in full swing, Virginia has become one of the places to follow for some of the best wall art and murals globally.
The Richmond contingent of artists was on full display with notable appearances by Ed Trask, Caesar, Brad Bacon, who was assisting Norfolk artist Charles Rasputin, and former River City artist Tim Skirven. Catching up with Trask, he spoke about how he had been in talks with VB City Council before, sharing his positive experiences from the Richmond Mural Project and how projects like these foster community and local talent.
“I love that VB is turning around and not just rich decadence,” said Trask, referring to the abundance of financing that is always allocated to the oceanfront economy. “It is cool to be at this inaugural event and is indicative of cities who want to start arts districts…celebrating arts and arts districts is part of everything.” Trask’s mural is on the side of Davis Ad Agency and is an homage to the original black women of advertising. “I wanted to celebrate the first African American woman in advertising. Instead of having some misogynistic ad man, it is a tribute to the ad world, but not the worst factors of that time.”
Skirven, who was painting alongside Three Ships Coffee, offered a similar homage, but to Chief Powhatan – the leader of the Tidewater Tribes in the 17th Century. “The mural might be called Spirit Rising,” said Skirven, taking a break from painting at night to speak with RVA Mag. “This is a way to remind people who were here first.” His mural, a magnolia and foliage set against the chief’s visage is also a nod to the original three ships that landed in the Tidewater area and the namesake of the coffee shop it adorns. Growing up in VB, but traveling extensively abroad in Europe and North Africa, this was a chance for him to bring his talent home, saying this was the kind of project he wanted to do when he was younger but never had the opportunity.
Some of the artists from outside of Virginia included ARCY from Connecticut and Jeremiah Kille from Santa Cruz in California. “I live on water,” said Kille, who said his background was in shaping surfboards. A natural fit for the surf and beach culture of VB, Kille described his work by saying, “I look at form and composition, hence this design…it is something that is mathematical, all of the pieces of the puzzle coming together.” His piece, which runs perpendicular to Baltic Avenue and sits astride the piece by Trask is an abstract banderole of interlocking shapes set against a constellation of color scapes.
One of the most interesting pieces is Art is a Weapon, by Fang Gang’s Charles Rasputin from Norfolk. The piece, towering 40 feet into the air, is a camouflage motif of conjoined greens, purples, blacks, and beiges set behind a capacious heart and peace symbol. Taking a break from the 90-degree heat, Rasputin said, “I wanted to achieve something that not only complimented the architecture but stood out visually and carried a strong social statement without being brash or alienating the audience.” He was quick to describe the camouflage pattern as fashion forward, while also bringing a unifying message of love and peace to a city that has an extremely deep military tradition.
Some of the other murals beautifying the ViBE District in VB can be found below:
The festival will end next weekend with a closing “parking lot party” on May 19, which will include a question and answer session with the artists from noon on – this will be followed by a walking tour of the murals the next day.
Photos by Landon Shroder