Explore Museums in Hampton Roads

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (Virginia MOCA) is an accredited, non-collecting contemporary art museum by the Oceanfront that has four exhibitions open sharing a common theme: food. The exhibitions explore the connections between food and art. One of the exhibitions on view is ‘Nourish’ at Virginia MOCA.

‘Nourish’ displays artworks created by 12 artists inspired by and paired with local food experts from Hampton Roads. The experts have different occupations ranging from farmers, chefs and nutritionists to food justice and anti-hunger advocates, who all provide their unique understanding of food that serves as a source of inspiration for the artist’s work.

Homer Babbitt, director of institutional advancement at Virginia MOCA and VWU Class of 2000 alumnus, shares more about the ‘Nourish’ exhibition and why people should visit to see it. 

“It was very interesting trying to figure out what the artists were interested in because we wanted to talk about all aspects of food culture with a little bit of a focus on food justice. We took a risk because we planned an exhibition on not knowing what art was going to come out of it and not knowing if we’ll find the right partnerships with the right artist and it all worked out. I think the risk paid off beautifully,” Babbitt said.

Clayton Singleton, VWU Class of 1994 alumnus, has his piece on display in the ‘Nourish’ exhibition called ‘Far from Manna’ that focuses on food insecurity and inequality, and food deserts with the inspiration from his expert partner, St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation.

“‘Nourish’ talks about food justice. It’s becoming part of the community dialogue around topics that are relevant today. For visitors, it’s allowing them to engage in a safe space and in a meaningful community conversation. It’s something that separates us from other museums,” Babbitt said.  

Despite the impact of COVID-19, The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art provides virtual tours for people to connect with art on MOCA at Home or Virtual Virginia MOCA. This offers an opportunity for everyone to create, explore, and relate to art from home.

If you wish to visit in person, the exhibitions run from Feb. 6 to June 6 and admission is free for everyone to visit the exhibitions. Reserve an appointment to visit Virginia MOCA by going to www.virginiamoca.org/tickets to explore an artistic approach to food culture in the Hampton Roads community.

Explore the beautiful gardens and natural scenery or look at artwork from across the world to travel without leaving Hampton Roads by visiting the Hermitage Museum & Gardens. The museum has outdoor landscapes and indoor exhibits to explore across its 12 acres of gardens and grounds. The current exhibition is ‘Whistler & Company: The Etching Revival,’ showing more than sixty etchings. 

Jennifer Lucy, marketing and exhibit design manager at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens, shared about the current exhibition and what she hopes people experience from visiting.

“We want people to see a connection between the pieces and themselves. We want them to experience how objects relate with them or just inspire someone–especially if you’re an artist or a creative person,” Lucy said.

Even though COVID-19 had posed a challenge, The Hermitage Museum & Gardens adapted by sharing their exhibitions, collection, gardens, and educational activities virtually. New additions include videos, podcast episodes, art projects for everyone. It offers a digital tour and photos to experience the museum from home.

Lucy added, “We had to close down the museum for a while just for safety reasons, but we noticed that the neighbors and the community really liked coming out here. That was a reason that we were needed at the time. It was something that we could provide here. It’s helped us see our role in the community.”  

The next upcoming exhibition opening this summer at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens is ‘Work in Progress: 13 Murals for Right Now.’ It is bringing together 13 muralists to express their viewpoints on critical issues and expand discussions of social justice in the community, and will be on view June 12 through Oct. 3.

“We invited 13 artists in the community to create a mural about an issue that’s really important to them. Instead of us as the museum saying, ‘We want you to make an artwork about this topic,’ we asked those artists to tell us what they think that we should be showing,” Lucy said.

Selected artists will touch on topics including Black Lives Matter, homelessness, poverty, women’s representation, and body acceptance. Six murals will be shown indoors while seven will be displayed in the gardens.

“The theme is the power of murals to facilitate change. It’s talking about social justice issues whether it’s police brutality, the food desert problem that we have here in Norfolk [or] homelessness. People are addressing mental illness. [There are] a lot of issues that we are facing as a community. They [the artists] have their own topic that they picked,”  Lucy said.

Tickets are free but reservations are mandatory at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens. Masks are required to visit their location at 7637 North Shore Road Norfolk, VA.

The Nauticus, centrally located across from MacArthur Square in Downtown Norfolk, is one of the largest maritime museums in the country. 

The Nauticus is a multi-part museum that features hands-on exhibits, interactive 3-D theatres and the USS Wisconsin. On the second floor, patrons can walk through the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. This museum presents artifacts dated from the Battle of Chesapeake in 1781, the Civil War, the Cold War and through the present date. In 2008, they received the gold standard of accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. 

On the third floor, patrons can experience an aquarium, interactive theatres, a weather station and much more. One of the crowd favorites is the shark tank. This tank includes an epaulette shark, two white spotted bamboo sharks and a female brownbanded bamboo shark that visitors are allowed to touch. Formerly, there was also a male brownbanded bamboo shark but he had to be moved to a closed off tank due to being too aggressive. 

Finally, you can tour the USS Wisconsin. This is one of the largest battleships the U.S. Navy has ever produced. The USS Wisconsin was put into commission after the attack on Pearl Harbor where it earned 5 battle stars for its service in the war and was finally decommissioned after an attack on Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. By the start of 2010, the USS Wisconsin had nearly 2.5 million visitors from people all over the world. 

The Nauticus is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10:00-5:00 and Sundays from 12:00-5:00. Tickets can be purchased on their website for $15.95

By Tiffany Warren & Anthony Wilson
tawarren@vwu.edu alwilson@vwu.edu