Virginia: NEON District

While Norfolk, Virginia has traditionally been known for its naval base—and home of the world’s first ice cream cone machine–the “New Energy of Norfolk,” NEON, is a burgeoning arts scene attracting attention from around the world.

Around every corner is repurposed space, like the common fence that’s been “yarn-bombed,” or the augmented reality murals with QR codes that, upon scanning with my phone, come to life. One mural winked at me and produced a flutter of birds. Amateur art is displayed from shop to shop. In search of a coffee I enter Commune and find a curated exhibit on the Art of Dying. One video screen with attached headphones playing atmospheric music shows a woman wearing a veil. Her eyes are open. They slowly close. Around her are video and imagery from moments in her life. She begins to fade. The images are now less defined and are from her childhood and infancy. Her flesh recedes. The images, too, begin to fade. She is now a skeleton. The juxtaposition of this exhibit on display where patrons enjoy coffee pour-overs and eggs Benedict is jarring.

Mural, NEON, Norfolk, VirginiaNearby, the renowned Chrysler Museum of Art houses a collection of 10,000 glass objects integrating multiple mediums from 2,500 B.C.E. to the present, and includes opulent Islamic glass, Cristallo Venetian glass and Tiffany glass. It’s like a history of wine, dining, religion and arts through goblets, decanters, vases, sculptures and even a reclining draped cast-glass dress, Reclining Dress Impression, by Karen LaMonte. At the adjacent Glass Studio we’re hypnotized by the glass blowing and lampworking demonstrations. Here, workshops include acid etching, casting, cutting and engraving, fusing, pressing, enameling and gilding.

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