“When I wandered into the outdoor space behind Fuego’s, I fell in love.” – artist Mike Smack
Local artist Mike Smack has partnered with developers and property owners Edmund and Alice Ruffin to take over 315 Virginia Beach Blvd. for a three-day pop-up gallery featuring fine art and music. It’s exactly the type of relationship the ViBe Creative District has been hoping for here in Virginia Beach. The event will completely transform the now vacant property, showing potential for future artist businesses. The non-profit behind the ViBe — of which I’m the Executive Director– works strategically with local property owners, lease holders and business managers to promote support for working artists and to find new opportunities—but it takes the commitment of the private developers to make this artist’s dream a reality.
I sat down recently to discuss this project with artist Mike Smack, aka MS Perceptions:
Kate Pittman: Tell us a little about yourself for those of our readers who aren’t familiar with your background.
Mike Smack, Jr.: I graduated with a B.S. in some BS from Florida State University, 2008. I learned photography on black and white film in a darkroom in high school. Everything else I’ve learned through my own observation and imagination. In the past 3 years I have painted walls in Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and the US.
The name of this project is “3!5 BLVD – A Pop-Up Gallery”.
What inspired you to create this pop up, and why did you choose this specific location?
This project started in my mind about 6 months ago. In February, I began looking for a space to host an art show, something fresh and different than your typical bar/restaurant/venue. I went up and down every street at the oceanfront. When I wandered into the outdoor space behind Fuego’s, I fell in love. Then I got to see the inside and realized this space demanded more than a one night art show. I had witnessed the success of pop-up shops while living in Melbourne, Australia last year and thought why not have a crack it. Go big or go backwards!
Explain your process of preparing the space and how you plan to attract an audience.
It’s a lot of work on this building, but just like art, the process is what I enjoy most. We are stripping the inside, adding some fresh paint and re-imagining the club style layout to make use of existing lighting and structures. It will be a gallery, but you won’t forget that it was a club.
Word of mouth is our most powerful means of promotion. If I invite you to your face, you can’t just click “like” and forget about me. I’ll remember and expect to see you there. We are also painting a vibrant mural across the front of the building. It will turn heads from the outside and open minds on the inside.
What the public will be able to do at this event?
3!5 BLVD will engage visitors of every age. Paintings, photos, sculptures, projections and more will be on exhibit. There will be installations specifically for selfies, a black light glow paint room where guests can create their own art, and sections created to change your sense of environment completely. Live, original music will tickle ears and entice even the shyest wallflowers to bust a move.
We are working to get a food truck on site for each day. Live music as well as spoken word poetry will be on for the public Saturday and Sunday. The gallery will be open to public for viewing and interacting Friday from 1 PM to 4 PM, Saturday and Sunday 11 AM to 8 PM. On Friday night there will be a private reception with about 50 passes up for grabs to the public. The pickup for those passes will be first come, first serve at a location TBA.
Why this one weekend?
May 19-21 is the last weekend before the madness of summer begins. A time for locals to enjoy their community, connect with their neighbors before grinding through the 100 days of tourist season.
What is next for you?
At this point I’m focused solely on the 3!5 BLVD project. I know opportunities will arise after this and I’ll figure it out then. It would be cool to do something like this at different cities around the country and the world, but Virginia Beach will always be my home base.
Property owners Edmund and Alice Ruffin are excited for the event.
“We are fully committed to the ViBe District and the promise it holds for the community,” they said. “One way we could demonstrate that commitment was to work with Mike and provide the space under very attractive lease terms to support his vision. We are excited about the Gallery event and look forward to continuing to help bring the ViBe District to life.”
Featured Musicians will include Eayes and Bennett Wales.