(The Artists Gallery in Virginia Beach. Image by Susan Werby)

By Jeff Maisey

The Artists Gallery, home to 11 resident visual artists in Virginia Beach, is moving to the city’s ViBe District at 532 Virginia Beach Boulevard by the end of this year.

The change in address will bring the local art gallery, city Parks and Recreation Pottery Program, and the newly established Virginia Beach Art Center all together under one roof in a win-win for everyone. 

The Artists Gallery began, as resident artist and Virginia Beach Art Center chairwoman Jean Rawls recalls, 20 years ago when four at-home artists sought a common studio space to share on Pacific Avenue. The artists then moved to the 2,500-square-foot current location on Norfolk Avenue, which allowed for additional artist working studio and exhibit space. 

In addition to Jean Rawls, The Artists Gallery studio artists include Shirley Anderson, Vinnie Bumatay, William Campbell, Constance Fahey, Maggie Kerrigan, Ann McDowell, Amy Ratliff, Dick Rawls, Kathy Staicer and Elizabeth Waitekus.  

Visitors to the gallery can observe the artists working in their individual studio space. Completed works of art hang on the studio walls and are available for purchase. The Gallery also has an exhibition space for both resident and a larger cast of exhibiting artists. Thematic monthly exhibits range from “Great, Small Things” to the always amusing “Fabulous Forgeries.” 

The Artists Gallery has once again reached a point where it needs additional space. They want to expand both the residential artist studio spaces as well as exhibit area. 

“The Artists Gallery will remain its own corporation, but it will be part of something much larger and even better,” said Jean Rawls. 

The Virginia Beach Arts Center was created in July 2016. It is a spin-off from The Artists Gallery. 

“We began to realize that if we were going to take the next step we were going to need non-profit status,” explained Rawls, noting the gallery did not qualify for grant funding. “We looked at our educational offerings and decided we would look for a non-profit for our classes.”

The Artists Gallery offers classes for adults, teenagers and children. With the available classroom space within the new Art Center and enhanced by having the Parks & Rec’s Pottery program under the same roof, the city has worked to embolden the ViBe. 

“An Art Center is more than one thing,” Rawls said. “An Art Center is a gathering place. It’s a place for youth to come; seniors to come; for different cultures. We’re beginning to see ourselves as the hub of local artists coming together. We love MOCA and we understand their prominence and their place in our city, but they are not the place to go for local art.” 

The Virginia Beach Art Center is currently conducting a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds — $400,000 — to build out and equip the facility. The city has provided $100,000 of the amount through a matching grant. The new Art Center will bring a much stronger visual art presence to the ViBe, which has lacked a well-established gallery until now.