The ViBe Creative District nonprofit announced that the City of Virginia Beach’s 19th Street Infrastructure improvements will bring new permanent artwork to the district. The road construction project, which broke ground mid-June is expected to last two years running through all of 2019; two-way traffic will be maintained throughout the road work. Along with under-grounding utilities, adding wider sidewalks and new on-street parking, the City of Virginia Beach has planned for intersection artwork at 4 major intersections and new neighborhood identifiers at the corners of several blocks to create a sense of identity and sense of arrival to City’s first arts district.
Members of the ViBe Creative District nonprofit board and Friends of the Creative District business association have been working diligently to communicate the critically necessary infrastructure needs of the neighborhood over the past four years. One volunteer established walking tours back in 2014 to help emphasize the lack of sidewalks, crosswalks and safe lighting for pedestrians and then invited City stakeholders, along with the public, to walk in traffic lanes with vehicles, over open water-filled drainage areas, and on near-dark streets to plainly illustrate those needs.
The neighborhood had long outgrown the current infrastructure and significant improvements are required to maximize revitalization efforts. This led to the creation of a comprehensive connectivity plan adopted by the City of Virginia Beach in December 2017. The plan, approved by City Council, allowed City Staff to plan and implement streetscape improvements on 18th Street and 19th Street, with a future goal of addressing 17th Street.
“It is always a challenge updating existing infrastructure that has been developed in pieces over a long period of time, said Councilmen John Uhrin. “It was very clear to me after seeing the true renaissance brought on by the many small businesses that have grown or decided to locate in the central beach area that this area needed a plan. I think the City staff did a fine job working with the community to help develop a program that will make this a truly walkable district and creates a meaningful sense of place.”
19th Street Improvements
The 19th Street improvement project provides for streetscape improvements including wider sidewalks, street trees, pedestrian lighting and undergrounding of overhead utilities, three lanes of traffic, on-street parking and associated stormwater and traffic improvements. The project is approximately four blocks and extends from Parks to Arctic Avenues and is the spine of the Entertainment District. It will contribute to the goal of making the City’s oceanfront a year-round, world-class urban resort.
Construction began in June 2018. Year-round construction is anticipated for two years with completion as early as May 2020. Two lanes of 19th Street will remain open during construction. The total project budget is $15.9 million. This project is funded with public facility revenue bonds paid for by the Tourism Investment Program Fund and a proposed 5-year increase in the hotel tax of $1 per room-night.
Permanent Artwork Designs
Four local artists were chosen to incorporate artwork into 4 major intersections on 19th Street—Parks Avenue, Cypress Avenue, Mediterranean Avenue, and Baltic Avenue. The selected artists were chosen for their history and artistic impact within the ViBe Creative District. Each was asked to create a simplistic digital artwork that could easily be installed with pavers by road contractors working on the streetscapes. The artworks made from pavers are expected to last a minimum of 20 years and as long as 30 years. These are the first permanent intersection artworks in the Commonwealth of Virginia, possibly the country.
“In all of our research on arts districts and street art projects throughout the country, we have yet to see permanent paver intersections dedicated to local artists in any other city, said Kate Pittman, executive director of the ViBe Creative District nonprofit. “These could be the first permanent paver large-scale road artworks in the country and we are grateful to the City of Virginia Beach for their vision to see the ViBe District as a leader in the arts.”
OnieTonie™ by Troy Summerell at Parks Avenue
Troy Summerell, aka OnieTonie™, is a Virginia Beach-based artist who strives to positively impact the community with happy, playful designs that feature bold colors and crisp lines. OnieTonie™ has his signature colorful artwork all over Hampton Roads and has murals in both Virginia Beach and Norfolk’s art districts.
Allison Termine at Cypress Avenue
Allison Termine is a Chesapeake artist that works as a librarian at the Chrysler Museum Library. Termine partnered with Hampton Roads pride to design a painted crosswalk incorporating a diagonal rainbow and origami cardinals, the state bird, which was first painted in November 2016. The public art project brought out over 500 volunteers and became the first rainbow crosswalk in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It will now become permanent at its original location of 19th St and Cypress Avenue.
Rick Nickel at Mediterranean Avenue
Artist Rick Nickel has created several public art projects and murals in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other arts venues in New York. He has exhibited at Virginia MOCA in the ViBe Creative District and is an avid supporter of public art. Nickel first painted a creative crosswalk of happy feet on 18th Street then designed this new skate inspired artwork for 19th Street permanent intersection artwork, a nod to the surf skate culture of Virginia Beach.
Scuba at Baltic Ave
Scuba, also known as Steven Schmucker, painted ViBe’s very first creative crosswalk in May of 2016. His original artwork will be reinterpreted into stone pavers during the 19th St Road Improvement projects. A Virginia Beach native who has worked at several ViBe businesses, Scuba began his full-time art career in Virginia Beach after painting several murals for ViBe currently plans to pursue an MFA in Fine Arts. Scuba is currently working on a new body of work for an upcoming solo show.
The Aesthetics of an Arts District
The 19th Street improvements are part of a larger vision to enhance pedestrian, bicycle and traffic connections between ViBe District destinations and the community attractions such as the Convention Center, Dome Site Redevelopment Area, and the Oceanfront Library. The larger long-term connectivity improvements envisioned for the ViBe District can be viewed online in the City’s connectivity study.
The City of Virginia Beach has partnered with the ViBe Creative District nonprofit and Friends of the Creative District business association to plan and implement artistic elements within the infrastructure improvements—such as creative crosswalks and unique artistic street furnishings—which will allow for place-making and sense of arrival elements for the district. The goal is for visitors to know they have arrived in the arts district, which will have a visual identity unlike any other neighborhood in the City of Virginia Beach. Already, pilot projects such as the artistic painted creative crosswalks located within the district have drawn national attention from approximately a dozen cities such as Austin, Jacksonville, Pasadena, Richmond, Roanoke, and San Diego. The ViBe Creative District has studied elements from over twenty arts districts throughout the country and sees these City of Virginia Beach streetscape projects as a key component for local artist opportunities to influence the neighborhood’s identity, as well as the City at large.
New neighborhood identifiers—featuring a custom design V-shape—will become future canvases for artists in the district. Located near intersection corners along 19th Street, the neighborhood identifiers help to visually identify the district and act as a sense of arrival and place-making tools. The ViBe Creative District and Virginia MOCA hope to partner to create outdoor exhibits with artwork painted on the neighborhood identifiers.
When completed, the new permanent intersection artworks and neighborhood identifier artworks will be added to ViBe’s growing public art map which is easily accessible from any smartphone or tablet and can be used by the public to view artwork from home or in person in the district. The map had already been viewed approximately 23,000 times since August 2017.
ViBe Creative District Online Interactive Mural Map: