An arts and culture review of 2021

It has been a year.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic prevailing, the arts and artists of Hampton Roads continued to flourish. We look back on a year filled with headlines in arts and culture:

___

Chesapeake native wins her first Tony Award

Adrienne Warren, a Chesapeake native and former Hurrah Player, won her first Tony Award in September for the title role in “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren graduated from Western Branch High and the Governor’s School for the Arts in 2005.

She took home an award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a show about the rock ’n’ roll superstar.

Warren also has upcoming roles in the ABC limited series “Women of the Movement” as Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, and in September, “The Woman King,” a historical epic inspired by the Kingdom of Dahomey, a state of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. “Women of the Movement” premieres at 8 p.m. Jan. 6. “The Woman King” is slated for a Sept. 16 release.

In December, Warren was named one of The Associated Press’ Breakthrough Entertainers of the Year.

___

New leadership at the Virginia Symphony Orchestra

In July, Eric Jacobsen, the music director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, was named music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Jacobsen is known for creating programs that include classical standards and works by undiscovered composers. He made his local debut the first week of December with three concerts featuring Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer Branford Marsalis.

Also in July, VSO named Norfolk native Thomas Wilkins as principal guest conductor, a position created for him. Wilkins had just completed a 17-year tenure as musical director for the Omaha Symphony. He still serves as principal conductor at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and conducts for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

___

The Chrysler Museum of Art marks the 50th anniversary of Walter Chrysler’s gift

This year marked quite the anniversary for the Chrysler Museum of Art: the gift from Walter Chrysler Jr. that helped it gain recognition and drew art lovers internationally to see its collection.

Chrysler was the son of car manufacturer Walter P. Chrysler. When the younger Chrysler was stationed in Hampton Roads in 1941, he met Norfolk native Jean Outland.

They married in January 1945 and eventually began to gift items from his collection to the museum in 1971. The rest came in phases, making the museum what it is today.

Outland said the museum was so well-known and respected that a curator from the Louvre in Paris traveled to Norfolk to see it.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the family’s donation, the museum hosted an exhibition, “Building a Legacy: Chrysler Collects for the Future.” The exhibition runs through March 6.

___

S.A. Cosby, Mathews County native son, gains literary acclaim

Crime writer S.A. Cosby, a native of Mathews County, has become a New York Times bestselling author. His most recent novel, “Razorblade Tears,” about two ex-cons out to avenge the murders of their sons, was published in July and debuted at No. 10 on the list. Jerry Bruckheimer’s production team was among the group that won the film rights.

Cosby’s 2020 novel, “Blacktop Wasteland,” won several awards, including a Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2020. It has also been optioned for film.

___

MOCA rebrands

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art’s website, logo and mission statement took on a new look to let people know the museum puts on dozens of exhibitions each year.

The museum started as an art association in the 1950s and eventually became an art center, then an accredited museum in 2010.

The makeover was in the works for a few years. Museum staff worked with a New York-based firm to make the changes.

It’s not a new identity, but a better way of explaining what the museum has been doing already these past few years — making sure more people have access to art, the museum said.

___

Scope celebrates 50th anniversary

Scope, which opened in 1971, was designed by a famous Italian architect, Pier Luigi Nervi.

The city tapped him to design the venue after he had become world-renowned for his work on the Stadio Flaminio, Rome’s new 30,000-seat stadium, as well as other international buildings.

Locals pushed back, demanding that the city hire Hampton Roads natives to design the building, but the city stood by its decision to go with Nervi.

“There are many good architects, local architects and many architects around this country and other countries that have had experience in designing large gathering places,” said Lawrence M. Cox, executive director of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. “No one has had the success, acclamation and recognition that Pier Luigi Nervi has received in this area.”

To celebrate the anniversary, the Chrysler Museum of Art curated an exhibition with Nervi’s designs. It’s on display until Feb. 27.

___

Fine arts center at CNU opens

The Mary M. Torggler Fine Arts Center opened on Oct. 31 after about 1 ½ years of construction and 10 years of planning. It is designed as part museum, part community arts center and part academic building for the department of fine art and art history at Christopher Newport University.

The 83,000-square-foot building is adjacent to the Ferguson Center for the Arts, connected by a curved colonnade that was extended for the project. As the Ferguson Center has become a popular venue for Broadway shows, concerts and world-renowned ballets, the Torggler was designed to be a destination for fine arts from across Virginia and beyond. The Torggler also absorbed the programs and community initiatives of the former Peninsula Fine Arts Center. PFAC closed last December after operating for more than four decades next to the Mariners’ Museum and Park.

To mark the opening, the museum opened the exhibition “Night Light,” which features the work of five artists who work with light, nature and technology. The exhibition will be on display through May 15.

___

Missy Elliott gets star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

In November, Portsmouth native Missy Elliott received the iconic star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Elliott, a rapper, songwriter and producer, is known for such hits as “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It” and has worked with the who’s who of music including Pharrell, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Madonna and Janet Jackson.

Her unmistakable style has won several awards including two American Music Awards, four Grammy Awards, six BET Awards, eight MTV Video Music awards and many more. She was also the first female rap artist and the third rapper ever to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and among the inaugural inductees for the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in Atlanta.

___

Pharrell Williams announces no SITW for Virginia Beach; receives honorary doctorate

Virginia Beach native and producer Pharrell Williams had quite the year. He lost his cousin Donovon Lynch, who was shot by a police officer at the Oceanfront in March. He then announced in November that he would not bring his popular and lucrative Something in the Water music festival back to Virginia Beach because of what he called a lack of urgency to charge the officer who shot Lynch.

On Dec. 11, after delivering the keynote address at Norfolk State University’s fall commencement ceremony, Williams received an honorary doctorate degree and was named an honorary member of the Spartan Legion Band.

___

Atlantic Avenue reboot

More than a dozen artists spruced up Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach with creative murals as part of a pilot project.

The AVE — Activate, Visit, Experience — debuted in time for Labor Day weekend with new walking and bike paths, entertainment space and outdoor dining spaces known as parklets.

“It’s beautiful and functional at the same time,” said Richard Nickel, an Old Dominion University art professor, as he painted a new walking path next to the sidewalk.

The city spent $300,000 on the project to gather feedback on what should be considered in future design plans to make the resort area more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

___

Neptune Festival princes

A teenage boy who wanted the opportunity to serve in a festival role traditionally designated for girls finally had his moment in the spotlight.

Evan Nied, 17, successfully lobbied for boys to be included in the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival’s Royal Court this year.

For the first time in the festival’s 47-year history, two ceremonial princes — Nied and Fraser Boone, both Virginia Beach high school seniors — stood alongside six princesses during the weekend festivities.

___

African American history tour comes to Virginia Beach

A new self-guided tour honoring African American history and culture in Virginia Beach was organized.

The traverses the city with 13 stops, beginning at First Landing State Park — where an African American regiment of the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed trails and built cabins after the Great Depression. The tour ends in the Seatack community, where residents built one of the first Black-owned fire stations in Eastern Virginia.

Amelia Ross-Hammond, a former councilwoman and founder of the Virginia African American Cultural Center, spearheaded the effort to create the tour. The brochure is available in visitor centers across the state.

Staff writers Saleen Martin, Stacy Parker and Denise M. Watson contributed to this report.

You may also like...