Color, culture, food, drink, drink, entertainment; Norfolk’s NEON District is an artsy lot of businesses and cultural hubs that has exploded since its birth a few years ago.
Each new wall mural brings a burst of color that energizes the neighborhood and attracts new development, businesses, and entertainment to an already vibrant hamlet.
The NEON wouldn’t exist without the notion of public art, and in the District resides a plethora of art hives and cultural centers to sate any Renaissance man or woman. The Chrysler Museum of Art is an anchor of the arts community in Hampton Roads, housing a world class art collection and bringing renowned exhibitions to our city. The Chrysler Museum Glass Studio is the museum’s younger sister, but a powerhouse of the glass world nonetheless. Just this past June, the Glass Studio hosted the annual Glass Art Society (GAS) conference, an international gathering of the world’s largest glass artist guild.
The Rutter Family Art Foundation supports the arts through curatorial fellowship programs, artist residencies, and exhibitions. Based in the old Texaco building at the corner of Granby and Olney, the Foundation also partners with Commune, a farm to table restaurant that operates its Norfolk location in the Texaco Building. Together they host rotating exhibits and musical acts that combine the visual and culinary arts.
The NEON is also an incubator for local artists. Glass Wheel Studios is the home of resident artists studios and galleries, making it one of the hatcheries of art in the neighborhood. Two new exhibits titled “See Worthy” by Jennifer Caldwell & Jason Chakravarty, and the other, titled “Trains of Thought” by Emily Bartlet and Navid Rahman, are currently on display. These dual exhibitions are on view September 16th through November 5th.
Just down the road, D’Art Center hosts over a dozen resident artists and studios as well. Located at 740 Duke St. across from the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, D’Art Center features two floors of studios, galleries, classrooms. Currently on display is the exhibit “Compelling Images from Virginia Photographers,” a competition juried by Erik Neil, Director of the Chrysler Museum of Art.
From the creation of art to the publication of news media, the NEON is an oven for the arts in our region. The Virginian-Pilot (publisher of this article) has served our region for over 150 years and since 1937 has been headquartered in its stately brown building on Brambleton Ave., winning Pulitzer Prizes and reporting on everything from the War in Afghanistan to local human interest stories.
As if the news weren’t dramatic enough these days, there are ample opportunities to take in a theatrical performance in the NEON as well. The Hurrah Players is one of the leading family theaters in Virginia. Their musical theater productions are driven by young actors and actresses, with mainstage productions being performed in downtown Norfolk’s TCC Roper Performing Arts Center and The Sandler Center for Performing Art in Virginia Beach. The Hugh R. Copeland Center on Wilson Street in the NEON District is home to Hurrah Players classrooms, dressing rooms, prop shop, as well as a 180-seat theater that is available to rent for community performances.
Not far from the Copeland Center you will find a completely different type of performance in the Push Comedy Theater. Located on Granby Street across from the Plot, this one of a kind venue is home to “The Pushers,” the comedy group that manages the theater and teaches/organizes its improv and sketch comedy classes, for adults, kids, and companies as well.
As an aside, the author of this article has taken both improv and sketch comedy writing classes at the Push Comedy Theater and highly recommends taking a class there! The Push Comedy Theater is a community-driven juggernaut pulling comedy know-how from the schools and theaters of New York City and Chicago. Stop by, have a beer, and take in a show.
If you’re hungry, you should check out Commune, one of the few farm-to-table restaurants in Hampton Roads. Located in the old Texaco building at the corner of Granby and Olney, Commune brings to the NEON a culinary artistry and vision that made the restaurant’s first location in Virginia Beach such a success. In partnership with the Rutter Family Arts Foundation, Commune is open seven days a week and hosts live music, art exhibits, guest speakers, and other programs enriching the District.
For a more formal theater experience, the Harrison Opera House at 160 W. Virginia Beach Blvd. is a world-class venue hosting high quality opera and theater productions. The House is also home to Virginia Opera and their next production, “The Girl of the Golden West,” opens November 10th. Check it out!
If you are looking for family-friendly theater, want to dive into the nuances of improv, take in a comedy show, or relish the society experience. of a night at the opera, there is something for every type of person here in the NEON.
Not only is the area a hub for great art, food and entertainment, it is also a place you can visit to make things look great. Be it your hair, your wardrobe, your decor, or your skin, the NEON can add some color to your life.
Wait, your skin? Yes, your skin. At Fuzion Ink Tattoos and Piercings, your skin is their canvas. Fuzion Ink was the first tattoo parlor to open in Norfolk after its 55-year ban was lifted in 2007. Since then, they have operated their 4,000 sqft. studio space on Granby Street, offering a clean and professional environment for tattoo and piercing addicts alike. Stop by Fuzion Ink sometime and make mom proud.
After you get your tattoos and piercings, it’s time for some different clothes! The CHKD Thrift Store at 795 Monticello Ave. has all your clothing needs at a fraction of the price. Tuesdays you can even receive a “texting coupon” for 25 percent off by texting KIDS to 71441. You’re bound to find some unique, vintage apparel to match the unique, vintage NEON neighborhood aesthetic.
Now that you have a new wardrobe, it’s time for a haircut, don’t you think? I know, I know, I sound like your dad… But if you need your ears lowered, the Beauty Parlor by Q and Company offers chic, modern cuts for anyone looking to enhance their style. You will notice that anyone walking out of the Beauty Parlor, located right across from the Plot, always looks smooth and confident with their new do.
Once you’ve had your hair sculpted by Q and Company, found some eclectic clothing at CHKD Thrift Store, and let your Fuzion Ink tattoo dry, you’re going to need some furniture to spruce up that new apartment. Can’t keep using lawn furniture in the dining room, buddy! Exotic Home, located on Granby Street near the corner of Virginia Beach Blvd., is like a museum of contemporary furniture. You’ll find beautiful stone table tops, luxurious fabrics, and designs for your home that are just, well… exotic!
Now that you, your hair, and your home look good, it’s time to discover some exciting new projects in the NEON that are coming soon.
“Unplugged” is a new entertainment venue still in the works that will be occupying the old Alchemy NFK space on Granby Street. The music venue will increase the footprint of the arts in the NEON and is an exciting addition to the neighborhood. Stay tuned.
Another development still in progress is the apartment complex sprouting up at 117. W. Virginia Beach Blvd., across from the Harrison Opera House. The design of this 48-unit apartment building will bring some “European flair,” according to the developer. Its erection also signifies an increasing residential presence in the NEON, an important indicator of long-term growth. Other lots in the neighborhood were recently purchased for residential development. In a few years, Buddy Gadams would like to construct a complex of 250 apartments and retail space on the two sites located east of the Chrysler Museum. Keep an eye out for that, because the more people who live in the NEON, the more vibrant the District will be.
Speaking of vibrant, the Plot has been a gathering space, a park, and event venue since the NEON’s inception. The space has been the beating heart of the NEON’s outdoor cardiovascular, and will soon give way to its newest iteration on the “Cofer lot”, at the corner of Olney and Wilson. The city will be developing it as a permanent park and outdoor space in the NEON. Along with this park comes this really cool centerpiece of public art. Here’s a hint of it below:
What would the NEON be without art? Public art abounds in the NEON, with dozens of murals and sculptures peppered throughout area. Some murals are interactive, blending art and technology seamlessly, like “Transparent Seas” on the side of the Virginia Furniture building. Other murals, such as Alex Brewer’s mural on the facade of the Glass Wheel Studio, have no electronic technology tied to the artwork, but used technology to document its creation. There are also a handful of new murals in the works which were debuted during this year’s NEON Fest. Be sure to walk through the NEON and check out all that fresh magic.
With all this walking around, I bet you’re probably quite hungry. Luckily Nouvelle Restaurant as well as Zeke’s Beans and Bowls are close by and delicious. Nouvelle Restaurant offers French and Filipino cuisine in an intimate atmosphere, right next to d’Art Center. Check out their menu and go get some dinner. Zeke’s Beans and Bowls offers more of a coffee-shop aesthetic and menu, with flavorful smoothies and Poke bowls to die for. Zeke’s also has a cute outdoor patio in the back of their restaurant and an authentic Pac Man arcade game, if you’re into that. Check out their page and go relax in their artfully decorated cafe.
You’re going to need something to wash all that food down! Stop by Bearded Bird Brewery on Granby Street and try some of this microbrewery’s elixirs. Their taps combine professionally crafted beers with winners of quarterly “home brew” competitions, a unique combination within the NEON and a great chance to try different flavors of the Hampton Roads beer scene.
The NEON Arts District is a bustling hive of businesses, performance venues, restaurants, art galleries and studios, as well a public art gallery itself. New wall murals, residential developments, business investments, and thriving institutions demonstrates this neighborhood’s potential being realized and points to a future brighter than the paint on the Glass Wheel Studio Mural. If you’re ever wondering “What is there is to do in the NEON District?”, perhaps try rephrasing the question; “What should we do in the NEON District?”
Icon Norfolk Apartments raises the bar with luxury high-rise style apartments in downtown Norfolk, VA featuring gourmet kitchens complete with stainless steel Viking and GE appliances, stunning quartz countertops, ceramic tiled showers, walk in custom closets and stunning sky scrapper views!
With over 33,000 square feet of amenity space that includes, a wellness center with an on demand yoga studio, interactive spin studio, spa, hydro massage tables and tanning salon. For your entertainment needs Icon has a theater room, rotating art gallery, climate controlled wine vault and tasting station, coffee bar and jazz lounge, gaming parlor with expansive video wall, dueling chef kitchen, and a two full service restaurants!
We have set our standards high to offer you the ultimate apartment living experience and an uncompromising level of service including concierge services. Enjoy views of the city at the 24th floor rooftop entertainment lounge that includes a lounge pool, grilling station, and roof top bar!
We are committed to providing the ultimate comfort and convenience to all our residents and future residents. Our wealth of experience allows us to provide superior service and quality like no other. You will feel at home the moment you arrive at Icon Norfolk. Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn more about your new apartment in today.
For more on Icon, click here.