Arts Districts are a way to diversify growing economies and shape creative vibes for other local industries. These communities are using the arts to change the face of their town and develop more creative experiences for travelers.
These communities were submitted and chosen based on using art as a catalyst for tourism to shape their town.
In Norfolk, the Neon (New Energy of Norfolk) District uses art as a way to revitalize and differentiate its community. It has encouraged a younger and more contemporary audience for the arts. At the heart of this district is the Chrysler Glass Studio. The Glass Studio offers free daily demonstrations, interactive events, and workshops, giving visitors an experience in the artistic process.
Norfolk’s incredible art scene led to the opening of Glass Light Hotel & Gallery, an art-centric hotel that celebrates the glass art culture and features over 65 glass works from world-renowned artists like Dale Chihuly, Stephen Rolfe Powell, and Nancy Callan. The gallery is free to hotel guests and the general public, and guests will also spot glass art throughout the hotel, including six-foot glass bunnies crafted by famed Dutch artist Peter Bremers.
Photo Credit: Earl Neikirk, @neikirkimage
The Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts, named for Wayne C. Henderson, a world-renowned guitar instrumentalist and luthier, is leading the charge in bringing arts to Marion. The Henderson School sits on the highest point in Historic Downtown Marion, a three-story brick structure known as the “1908 Schoolhouse”. The school offers classes in song writing, yoga, letterpress, music, crafts, and public paint nights. Anyone is welcome to sign up for classes. The school also offers programs and residencies.
Take a tour of Art Works, the art center in Old Manchester. Visit the five galleries and 75 artist’s studios where you’ll see artwork of all types: paintings, sculpture, modern abstract, traditional, jewelry, pottery, photography, and prints. Old Manchester is becoming a hot spot for artists and travelers to experience art, from murals to galleries. Cross the river and experience Richmond’s Mural Project, including over 100 murals popping up all over the city by artists from around the world.
Photo Credit: Caroline Martin, @carolinemartinphoto
Don’t miss Richmond’s art staple, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, featuring more than 35,000 works of art that span 5,000 years of world history. Its collections of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, English silver, Fabergé, and the art of South Asia are among the finest in the world.
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos
Explore the Red Brick District to discover world class theatre, great live music, cool art galleries, and museums that bring the past to life. As you walk the streets of Staunton’s cultural heart, you’ll find works of art all around you, quirky cafes, galleries and eateries where painters, photographers, sculptors, and craft artisans display their works. The Blackfriars Playhouse, recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language and humanity with performances year round in the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s own indoor theatre. The Heifetz International Music Institute, a summer program for 80 of the most talented young violin, viola, and cello musicians in the world, holds five concerts per week during the summer and most of them are free to the public.
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos
Harrisonburg is host to a premiere artist cooperative which is part of the city’s Arts & Cultural District. At OASIS Fine Art & Craft, experience creativity in gloriously diverse forms. You always buy local at the gallery, as the works are nearly all by Shenandoah Valley region artists and artisans. Learn from friendly artists or volunteers who staff the gallery as you shop fine hand-crafted Shenandoah Valley pottery, jewelry, fiber art, wood, metal, glass, wearable art, paintings, and photography. The gallery offers exciting events – one-person shows, theme shows, free live concerts, classes, and more. While there, check out the Smith House Galleries that display monthly exhibitions focused on local artists.
The Taubman Museum of Art is part of the lively metro mountain mix of arts, culture, and outdoor fun in the heart of downtown Roanoke. The Museum offers eleven galleries as part of the Fralin Center for American Art and hosts 15-20 exhibitions per year. Featured artists have ranged from Kehinde Wiley to John James Audubon and from Yoko Ono to Norman Rockwell. The Museum is also home to a renowned permanent collection featuring the work of artists such as Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Purvis Young, Petah Coyne, and John Cage, to name just a few.
Photo Credit: Autonomous Flight Technologies, @autonomousflighttechnologies
A few blocks from the Taubman Museum of Art is Center in the Square, a seven-story regional non-profit cultural center featuring seven cultural and educational organizations and a spectacular 6,000 gallon living coral reef aquarium- the largest aquarium of its type in the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Dating to 1905, when it was originally an opera house and Masonic Lodge in the downtown historic district of Clifton Forge, the Historic Masonic Theatre is Virginia’s oldest continuously operating Theatre and a staple for the area. Get your arts and crafts fix at the Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center. The center has rotating exhibits and sales of juried regional fine arts and crafts. The gallery and shop facility encourages creative experience and appreciation of the visual arts. Gallery Exhibits change every 4-6 weeks and feature work in a wide variety of media by Highlands and other artists.
Photo Credit: Chad Williams, @echadwilliams
The City of Manassas has caught the art bug, with art popping up around Historic Downtown. At the heart is ArtFactory, home to The Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas and Prince William County. This art destination sponsors summer camps for children and teens, theatrical productions for children and adults, teaches classes in the arts, and provides community outreach programs for local youth. Also located at ArtFactory for your performing arts fix is The Arthur Kellar Family Theater. The theater is home to Rooftop Productions, the Center’s own theatre company, which presents a refreshing variety of classic drama, comedy, and musical entertainment. Ballroom dancing takes place the first Sunday of every month.
Founded in 1974 in an old munitions plant, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to the largest number of publicly accessible working artist studios in the U.S., with 82 studios and six galleries. Art-in-progress is what you’ll find at this world-renowned art center located just outside Washington D.C.
Built in 1846, a Greek-Revival building originally served as the Norfolk County Courthouse until 1960. Now it is home to the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center, and with two spacious galleries of ever-changing exhibits, the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center is more than just an art museum. It’s a relaxing gathering place where you can learn the art of growing Bonsai trees one week and see a demonstration of glass blowing the next. Every First Friday, the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center typically offers free musical entertainment. Art classes, lectures, poetry readings, and book signings round out the vast array of offerings.
The Chincoteague Island Arts Organization works to create a cultural arts center on Chincoteague Island to share film, performing arts, education programs, and other entertainment with our community and visitors. On your way to visit the wild ponies at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, check out the Museum of Chincoteague Island, where exhibits display life on this island from before man to the present. The shipwrecks and treasures exhibit features items found in the waters around the Island. The Guilded Age exhibit depicts life in the late 19th century, when wealthy merchants owned large Victorian homes on the Island. Early sailing history comes to life in a models exhibit of vessels used on our bays, creeks, and channels.
The Charles H. Taylor Arts Center attracts art lovers of all kinds. Built in 1925, the building served as Hampton’s public library for over 60 years. After careful renovation and restoration, the building now presents changing exhibitions of the best of local, regional, and national artists, as well as classes for children and adults. In efforts to bring more arts and travelers to the area, Hampton has also dedicated two nearby areas of town now known as the Hampton Arts and Cultural District.