Art museum relocates to campus, offers opportunities

Expectations vary for the new Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) building’s expected installation on the Virginia Wesleyan campus.

The MOCA announced in July 2023 that it would be creating a new, modern facility built on VWU’s campus. This new facility will replace the MOCA’s current location on the Virginia Beach oceanfront and will offer space for a wide range of art experiences to students and members of the community.

“Our collaboration with VWU will allow us to do even more of what we do best: create groundbreaking exhibitions and engage the community in thought-provoking artistic experiences,” CEO and Director of MOCA Gray Ryan said in the July press release.

The MOCA facility will provide new spaces for the arts at VWU, including the Artlab. The building will also function as a classroom, according to a press release in March 2024. It will allow for both educational and exhibitional space for all art students.

“I can envision this endeavor providing students with opportunities ranging from class tours of the facility to specialized paper topics, guest speakers, guest artists, short visits and long-term residencies, opportunities to work with area school populations that will visit MOCA, and beyond,” Dr. Sally Shedd, the incoming Dean of the Susan S. Goode School of Arts and Humanities, said. Shedd serves as a Professor of Theatre, the Chair of the Department of Political Science and a member of the VWU/MOCA Integration Team. 

Shedd explained that some decisions on the project are still underway, and she expressed enthusiasm about its implementation. Shedd said that the facility would bring more opportunities to students of all majors.

The press release in July said that the creation of this new facility will be funded by the donations of Jane Batten, Joan Brock, and Susan and David Goode. The philanthropists are all long-time financial supporters of both VWU and MOCA and will be a crucial part of funding the new facility. 

Liam Castellano, a first-year Media and Communication major with a Theatre minor, expressed their interest in the new building.

“I think it’ll be great for Virginia Wesleyan students to have such easy access to these new artistic spaces, and it’ll really bring Virginia Wesleyan to a new level on a national scale,” Castellano said.

Senior Art major Jomaira Rosado said that the facility would help bolster the department.

“It could potentially bring inspiring artists or people from Virginia Wesleyan to go and put their stuff in there,” Rosado said.

ABOVE: Planned map of the MOCA’s location on campus shows the addition of a new road to connect the parking lot.

BELOW: CGI rendition of the new building.

Virginia Wesleyan|Courtesy

Despite the potential it has to provide student opportunities, Castellano expressed concerns about the location of the new building. The MOCA facility will be located near the Goode Center and Beverly Hall, and will replace part of the parking lot. Castellano is a commuter student who regularly parks in this parking lot. They explained that while the parking lot is typically about half-full, events tend to quickly fill it up. With the new MOCA facility bringing more visitors and possibly more students to campus, Castellano expressed logistical concerns.

Castellano’s concerns referenced the housing troubles that VWU has had in the past few years, causing some students to be placed in off-campus housing in hotels. “​​We need more housing already,” Castellano said. “So, I don’t think the solution is to just revamp existing housing. We need more housing and more parking for more people.”

The arts affinity housing in Eggleston Commons in Bray Village, referenced by President Scott D. Miller as part of the David R. Goode Arts Complex, will hopefully aid in these housing problems, as well as strengthen the support of the fine arts community on campus. As for the parking, Shedd spoke about the problems faced with parking during the building of the Goode Center and said that she parked in other places then.

“I’m willing to park anywhere on this campus with a smile in order to achieve this kind of growth and community engagement for VWU,” Shedd said. She added that one of the benefits of a small campus is being able to walk to locations, even if there isn’t easily accessible parking.

Rosado ultimately expressed optimism toward the new opportunities that the facility would bring for Art majors. She said that it could aid in advertising for events and exhibitions, as well as allow for more opportunities for Art majors hoping to join the professional realm.

“For it to be the MOCA, that could bring in a lot of revenue for other artists, other seniors, and they can possibly go somewhere rather than just being stuck at just having a bachelor’s degree,” Rosado said. No matter what expectations the facility upholds, it will certainly have an impact on the campus.

By Gabrielle Barnett