Norfolk Arts and the Elizabeth River Project has received a $75,000 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant to create public art installations in neighborhoods susceptible to flooding along the Ohio Creek in Norfolk, Virginia. This is one of 63 grants nationwide that the NEA approved in this category to support projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes; ultimately laying the groundwork for sustainable systems change.

What the Water Wants will infuse art in the Ohio Creek Watershed Project. In collaboration with the Elizabeth River Project, residents, the design team, and the City of Norfolk Office of Resilience, the project will be a catalyst to share the story of the river, create public art, improve access, and engage the community in environmental stewardship. The team will hire artists to investigate meaningful and beautiful interventions to preserve the environment, connect people, and develop the economic vitality of our shoreline community. As part of Riverfest, the City of Norfolk and the Elizabeth River Project will organize and host a free celebration of art and the river during the artwork dedication.

What the Water Wants, while focused on the Ohio Creek Watershed, proposes translatable strategies for coastal resilience in vulnerable urban settlements threatened by sea level rise, environmental degradation, and the loss of cultural heritage. The intense global interest in the urban implications of climate change and sea level rise, as well as the poetic possibilities at the threshold of land and water, underscore the timely significance of artists making space for water.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to work towards a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce this Our Town funding. These awards will support cross-sector partnerships such as the one lead by [Name of organization] that demonstrate the power of the arts to help communities create a better future for themselves.” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers.

The installations are intended to enhance pedestrian routes along the waterfront, improving perceptions of safety and increasing connectivity with nearby neighborhoods. The project will include community engagement activities intended to spark dialogue around adaptation to sea level rise in this low-lying coastal region.

Look for a call to artists to be posted soon!
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Pictured: Matthew Geller “Upper Blush” created as part of the 1st NEA Our Town grant we received in 2017.

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