I was seventeen when I first visited the D’Art Center. It was late in the evening, most of the studios were dark, and I remember trying to peek through doorways, feeling sneaky.
The spaces I saw were clearly little sacred worlds of self-expression for the artists in them. At that time I was a directionless teen, but my artistic talent was becoming clear, and any goals I had included art. To see mini artist havens–small, personal creative caves that represented a future that could be mine–was identity defining. It was 1998; D’Art had been around for over ten years. The facility and the organization was on the forefront of innovative, community outreach for the arts in Hampton Roads. Because of that initial, moving impression, D’Art has always represented, for me, a home for the nurtured artist, bringing art to others through the seasons of their lifelong pursuit of creativity.
Now, D’Art is arising from a difficult year. I came to D’Art soon after that explosion last April that blew out the electrical room in the Selden Arcade, destroying several artist studios. Most of the artists had been with the D’Art Center since before it moved to the historic Arcade in 2005. The investment the organization and each resident artist had in that facility made the move to a new building more than just a physical loss, but a drastic, emotional change to everyone’s lives, especially after ten years. Through the change, though, we are now all coming together, working and creating with a renewed sense of artistic teamwork, to make a new home and a new D’Art.
The mood at D’Art this year has been an extreme mix of excitement, apprehension, pain, and hope, but mostly dedication to a mission that we are now trying to redefine as we come into this new era. What makes this particular group of artists and the idea of D’Art an asset to the community that shouldn’t ever be lost is the creative giving that was the original foundation for its inception: connecting the community to the arts in a way that is inclusive, understanding, and familiar, like home. Resident artist Fred Freeman has a studio on the second floor, and is a prolific, award winning sculptor. Watching his process is at once inspiring and welcoming to even those who know little of art. As you walk into resident artist Pamela Winslow’s studio, you are enveloped by warmth, love, generosity and artistic inspiration. Part of her creative journey as a textile artist and an original D’Artist has been interacting with the community while she works. She is not a solitary creator. She thrives on sharing, and that is the core of D’Art.
D’Art@Duke is a temporary location, though, and we are already looking to the long term, which would be another, larger facility meant to be a permanent home for a new generation of artists and art students. The current D’Art staff is a hardworking trio with the help of a dedicated board, but D’Art is a non-profit, and survives through sponsorship and community support.
Fortunately, we have been blessed with a new neighborhood that is bright, optimistic, and full of all the potential of the organization itself. With the encouragement of our next door neighbors, the Chrysler Glass Museum and Glass Studio, and the Glass Wheel Studio down the street, D’Art on Duke Street is starting to feel like home. The NEON District in Norfolk has the energy, the excitement for me that D’Art did those many years ago. I want D‘Art to be included in that now, to have a place in this new, innovative arts community. My hope is for the region to once again see the importance of these master artists, who have decades of artistic evolution under their belts, to come and learn from them like I am learning now. My dream is to have the community continue to support the D’Art Center’s endeavors, and for this artistic family to keep on living, changing and giving art to all for generations to come.
An open house benefit and Spectrum exhibition reception is on March 23rd, 630-830pm.
Summer Art Camp registration starts April 1st.
Wearable Arts Fest exhibition reception is April 2nd, 6-8pm.
Here is D’Art on Facebook, and here is their website.