Local Art Exploration

Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront Boardwalk offers more sights than just sandy beaches and the Atlantic. The Boardwalk also doubles as a public art museum, offering an array of artwork that represents the history, nature, cultural diversity and fun environment of the city.

In May of 2016, Virginia Beach’s Office of Cultural Affairs created a free Public Art Guide that maps out all of the art that decorates the Boardwalk, allowing visitors to take a self-guided beachside tour.

For those who have visited the Oceanfront, there is a good chance that you have seen at least one of the pieces featured. One such piece is the 34-foot-tall King Neptune statue that towers above the beach’s 31st Street entrance.

The Public Art Guide proves that Virginia Beach’s creative environment reaches far beyond this artistic hot spot with 18 other works on the Boardwalk alone.

The first piece on the guide, titled “Anticipation,” features a man and boy standing side by side with surfboards in hand, staring out in eager anticipation at the beach before them. The remainder of the art on the Guide is scattered down the Boardwalk’s stretch as far as 36th Street. The final mapped destination is a concrete sandcastle that sits within a sandbox, a representation of beachside fun and Virginia Beach’s yearly sandcastle building competitions.

Every piece on the Guide holds and depicts a different element of Virginia Beach’s community so no two pieces are exactly the same, but they all work as a visual representation of how the city has become what it is today.

Though each piece is numbered on the map in the Public Art Guide, visitors have the freedom to choose the order in which they follow it without diminishing the experience of their tour.

The public art tour in Virginia Beach does not have to end when the Boardwalk does. The Public Art Guide lists artwork near the Oceanfront, but off the Boardwalk, in locations like the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, the Virginia Beach Convention Center and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. There is also a guide available for the art featured in Town Center.

Virginia Beach does not have a public art fund, which means that the funding behind these beautiful additions to the city come from private donations, organizations and businesses.

Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation, Inc., was founded in 2012 to help collect such funding and help plan for the city’s art to thrive in the future. According to the Foundation’s website, its mission is “to transform Virginia Beach with exciting and beautiful works of art in strategic public locations and to foster the creation and appreciation of art.”

The Foundation continues to seek out artists and artwork to fill the city’s public spaces.

Miranda Fein