Tucked away among a forest of trees, bordering the Vibe Creative District, lies the gem that is the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (VA MOCA). The rather unassuming building is home to a cozy bookstore, Read Books, an atrium with a communal gathering space and a handful of meaningful, small, temporary exhibits. Habitually changed three to four times a year, these self-guided (or guided upon request) exhibitions reflect the modern world, keep art alive and strive to “Explore our shared humanity, through locally relevant and nationally resonant, contemporary art that’s exceptional—in all of its timeliness, restlessness, and beauty.”
While tickets are free due to the Goode Family Foundation, they must be reserved at any point before your visit. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. regularly, except for Thursdays, when it remains open till 8 p.m., the museum offers a sensational and inclusive atmosphere for destressing, whether that be through studying in a quiet environment, appreciating its art, taking master classes with exhibition artists, attending featured events and COVID-19-conscious programs, or even volunteering as a gallery teacher.
Now, until Oct. 24, you can visit their primary exhibit, Summer of Women, which contains smaller features such as Together, She Says: Women, Words and Amplify. These collections meld together to visualize the overarching female struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic—the setbacks and triumphs of women during the last year—from diverse racial, ethnic, religious and generational perspectives. The pieces range from mixed media, textured, paintings, photographs—edited and raw, sculptures, ceiling pieces, collages and even videos. Every brush stroke, stitch and canvas evokes the emotions captured in the artists’ undeniable personal testimonies.
As you move throughout the halls, it is hard to miss artist statistics, which highlight minority groups and their struggle for equal representation in nationally accredited museums and galleries. While the Virginia Museums of Contemporary Art’s upcoming exhibitions will not be female centric, there will always be a strong emphasis on equality and representation, never avoiding uncomfortable topics, but engaging and exploring them in unique ways. Unlike more traditional museums, MOCA features an easily accessible Art Lab where you can have your picture taken, draft your own sketches or sculptures and add your own touch to provoking communal art.
The VA MOCA is a community-centered space. Within the Vibe District, the museum acts as an event space for anything from public programs to weddings and has historically sponsored events right on the oceanfront, such as the Boardwalk Art Show, ranked in the top 50 best fine arts shows. This year, from Oct. 22 till the 24th, the 65th annual show will host dozens of artist’s works, between 23rd and 32nd street on the Boardwalk. Whether you attend the Boardwalk show, or explore the museum, I would strongly recommend interacting with all that the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art has to offer.
By Sasha Saxon