The Seawall Art Show in Olde Towne Portsmouth is not the biggest art show in Hampton Roads, but it is one of my favorites.
It’s almost here, Saturday and Sunday, August 27 and 28, rain or shine, at High Street Landing and on up High Street.
I have written about my love of Seawall before. Why do I circle the date and go every year?
The 46th Annual Seawall Art Show is a juried show. Artists from around the country must submit photos of their work months in advance. A panel of judges reviews the samples. Between 75 and 80 artists are selected to show and sell. That means no schlock at the Seawall. The arts and crafts here are high quality and a feature a full range of media, including oils, pastels, fiber, jewelry, glass, wood, photography, metal and more. The artists have a nice incentive of more than $7,000 in awards, including Best in Show.
This is a well-run show, and that attracts high quality artists. Linda Torres, Show Director of Seawall, says they have a “great volunteer base. The folks who help us run the Seawall Art Show really care about Portsmouth and focus on all the positives about Portsmouth. They’re the best.” Proceeds from Seawall go directly into arts programs in Portsmouth, including the outdoor sculptures and programs run by the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center.
Parking in Portsmouth is free on the weekends. If you live on the other side of the Elizabeth River, save yourself a toll and spend it on a ferry ride. Get off the ferry at High Street Landing, and you will be at the Seawall Art Show, right at the Student Show and Sale (more about that later).
The ferry is free for children under 18, riding with an adult or teenagers who have a Student Freedom Pass.
Food, Drink, Music and Stuff for the Kids
An excellent art show isn’t just about the art. It’s good when you can take your kids, if you want to, and make a day of it. The Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmer’s Market will be at the corner of Court and High Street on Saturday morning.
There are lots of good things to eat there. The Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center and their beautiful, shady courtyard will be open both days.
The Seawall Art Show sets up performances by local groups so you can enjoy some music with your art. The Americana Lovebirds/Sunshowers, Top Hats Orchestra, Jim Newsome, Larry Weintraub, Who We Are Not and 2 for Fun will all be there at different times. Check Seawall’s website for the schedule of music.
They’re all kinds of great places to eat and drink in Olde Towne Portsmouth. I listed just a few of them here, but you’ll discover some too, as you walk the art show. You can also ask at the Olde Towne Concierge Booth, right on High Street.
There will be a place for your kids to do some art of their own at the Seawall Art Show. The show is on High Street from Water to Crawford, near the Children’s Museum of Virginia and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
If you have some little ones who need to take a break from all the art show fun, the Children’s Museum is the Place to go. Older kids can enjoy the Sports Hall of Fame.
Student Show and Sale
I saved my favorite thing for last. Peggy Davis, Coordinator of the Seawall Student Art Show, sends out letters to over 100 middle and high schools in Hampton Roads each year, from Williamsburg to Franklin. She invites student artists to submit an application to show, and sell if they want, in the Seawall Art Show Student Show and Sale.
The students will set up their art and exhibit under tents right at High Street Landing. I’ve been to about a million art shows in my life, and allowing middle and high school students to show and sell their art is very rare. Peggy is a retired art teacher, and feels strongly that young people should be given the opportunity to show their work, have a chance to talk to professional artists, and get feedback from the art lovers who come to the show.
“The ones that enter the Student Art Show are passionate about art, and you have to have that passion to be an artist,” she tells me.
I spoke to two of the Student Artists who are exhibiting this year. Amber Frederick is a veteran, exhibiting her artwork for the 5th time this year. She will be a senior at Churchland High School’s Magnet Program for Visual and Performing Arts. Her art interest the last couple of years has been “reincarnation through recycling.” She loves to take scraps, discards, other people’s junk, and “give it another life.”
She is a young artist, and is still learning and experimenting. Her dad just taught her how to weld so that she could tackle some big sculpture. She comes back each year to the Seawall Student Art Show and Sale because she’s proud of her art, loves to talk to people about what’s going on at Churchland High, and has developed friendships with some of the professional artists that show each year. Amber is interested in becoming an art teacher, like her former art teacher, Peggy Davis, and her current art teacher and “art mom” Jean Stith.
Sophia Melendez is showing for the first time this year at Seawall. She is 12 years old and heading into 7th grade at Independence Middle School in Virginia Beach. I wish I were as poised, confidant and articulate as Sophia when I was 12 years old. She has been “doodling” since she was in 3rd grade, but tells me that she just got “more serious” and “thinking more freely” about her artwork in the last year. Her art teacher at Independence, Deniz Murray, encouraged her to show at the Seawall Student Art Show.
Sophia would like to be a forensic scientist some day. Besides art, she loves dance, tap, jazz and ballet. This is her first real art show and she’s looking forward to “seeing how other people do their art process.” She says, “art is one of the things that makes me, me.”
Sophia will be showing some of her watercolors and her gel pen designs.
Be sure you stop by the Seawall Student Art Show and Sale and say hello to the student artists. They will be there, putting their artwork on display, some for the first time, and welcoming your feedback. This is a very special part of the 46th Annual Seawall Art Show.
Don’t forget to find the latest public art in Portsmouth while you’re at the Seawall Art Show and take some photos.
For more more info on Seawall, here is the website.