The City of Norfolk received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program to hire an environmental artist to work with urban planners and community partners to design and create artwork that responds to recurrent flooding.
The muse for Upper Blush is an issue critical to Norfolk’s future—rising tides. A canopy allows circles of light to fall through skylights onto the ground referencing the moon. Teetering and swaying mimic the ebb and flow of water. The human interaction that influences the balance and flow of the water serves as a metaphor for larger issues associated with floodwater management.
The canopy teeters like a seesaw when someone sways on the benches below and directs rain water from the roof through drainpipes to the ground and into a nearby rain garden. The person swaying on the bench can create movements that direct water to flow down a specific pipe.
Norfolk is the cultural, educational, medical, and business center of the southeastern Virginia region known as Hampton Roads. The City and area is renowned for its 400 year history, major military base, and shipping port.
Waterways are part of its success and charm but are also major threats due to recurrent flooding. According to The World Resources Institute, the Hampton Roads area is experiencing the highest relative rate of sea-level rise along the entire U.S. East Coast. The area is second only to New Orleans as the largest population center in the country at risk from sea-level rise. Norfolk is especially susceptible to flooding because of the tension between flood water over topping banks and coming up through storm drains during high tides and rain water falling. Tidal flooding is often exacerbated by wind speed and direction.
Norfolk was designated one of “100 Resilient Cities,” as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative and received a grant to build and expand our ability to rebound from adversity, both natural and economic. We are a forward-thinking city that is strengthening the infrastructure and preparedness of our low-lying coastal region for the flooding challenges we face today and moving forward.