By Laurissa Senecal
Work Release opened in April of 2015. It is a unique space in Norfolk with rotating art exhibits, drinks, food, dancing and more.
Summing up Work Release in a simple sentence is difficult. Careyanne Weinberg, venue director of the one-year-old business and alumna of Virginia Wesleyan College describes it as an art exhibition space. Google describes it as an art museum. For college students like senior Lilia Franco, it is a club where students can enjoy good music and drinks with friends. For high school seniors at The Governor’s School for the Arts, it is a place that allows them to showcase their senior projects. To all, it is a place that celebrates art, the individual and the community.
The project began in 2013 when the Rudder Family Art Foundation bought the building partly as a place where they could store their art collection and partly as a way to serve the community. Weinberg and Charles Rasputin were hired by the Rudder Family to put the lowest level of the building to use. After collecting input from the community, Weinberg and Rasputin put their heads together and cooked up a solution to satisfy all. Thus, Work Release was born.
The primary goal of Work Release is summed up by Taylor Surratt, gallery host at both Work Release and the Chrysler Museum of Art.
“Work Release helps to bring more culture to Norfolk. It offers entertainment and fun to people who don’t necessarily like art,” Surratt said.
Work Release lies in the heart of the NEON Arts District in Norfolk. It occupies the intersection of Granby Street and Olney Road just seconds from the Chrysler Hall. In fact, Work Release has a close partnership with the Chrysler Museum. Charlotte Potter, glass blower at the museum, has pieces displayed at Work Release now for the February exhibit. The art exhibition space is an essential part to the growth of the arts culture in Norfolk.
The staff at the art exhibition space works hard to attract people from all walks of life.
“Whether you’re black or white, rich or poor you can come here,” Weinberg said. Work Release strives to fight against exclusivity.
While many of Work Release’s customers are college students looking to party, they leave with a much richer experience than they would have gotten from a typical club.
“We offer a place where you can have a fun time and learn something in the process. We challenge people to get inspired. Maybe we’ll steer your path differently than to where you might have gone otherwise,” Weinberg said.
The art at Work Release is not only inspiring; it is innovative, incorporating a variety of media. The first exhibit is an overhead projection of a woman dancing in a pool with ropes wrapped around her legs. Around the corner, there is a glittering cascade of house keys flowing over a display box and onto the floor, refusing to be contained.
Here is a place where you can eat delicious food from a menu which changes monthly, drink quality drinks at reasonable prices, be surrounded by art, listen to a variety of music and, most importantly, be unified with the community.
“My favorite thing about this place is watching the progression of the night,” Weinberg said. “There will be people like right now, sort of milling about casually looking at art, and then come 11 p.m. you will see the same people twerking with everyone else. And what’s cool is it’s everyone all together,” she said.
The music is a huge part of this inclusive environment.
“Right now we have this folk band playing, but later tonight we have a punk rock band performing,” Weinberg said.
Folk, country, indie and punk are just a few of the genres that are played there. In addition, Work Release does not select artists based on popularity. Anyone who shows themselves to be a professional, talented musician is allowed to play. Anyone from the local street musician to the nationally acclaimed boy band is welcome.
It is fitting that Work Release’s name is as multi-purposed as the space it occupies. Originally a joke, the name grew into something that encapsulated the company’s mission.
“This is your release from work where there is lots of worry involved… but it is also a place where artists can release their work,” Weinberg said.