About Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities
Norfolk is the cultural capital of Virginia and offers the highest quality and the widest array of artistic experiences.
No other city in Virginia, and few of any cities its size, offer the breadth and level of arts programming that Norfolk enjoys. The City has garnered both national and international accolades for its support of the arts. It has earned a stellar reputation that attracts tourists worldwide, dramatically contributing to the local economy and enhancing the educational experience of both novice and seasoned artists. The city’s support of the arts and its myriad forms (e.g., public art, theatre, opera, music, visual arts, dance, etc.) is unrivaled in the region.
The Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities is proud to help support the organizations that make the arts and culture come alive. Grant supported programs reach into every neighborhood and give all citizens the opportunity to enjoy the finest arts Norfolk has to offer.
As part of Norfolk Arts the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities serves as an effective resource to arts and humanities organizations for the City of Norfolk, helping provide extraordinary moments by extraordinary people.
- Established 1978
- 15 members appointed by City Council
- 3 year, renewable terms with a 12-year term limit
- Member designated “at large” or aligned with a particular arts discipline
- Promote the success, enhance the quality, provide support and increase the availability and awareness of artistic and cultural experiences for the benefit of the citizens of Norfolk.
- Advocate for non-profit arts and humanities organizations and their funding needs.
- Provide support to grantees as requested and available.
- Facilitate and improve communication, collaboration and efficiencies among grantees, other arts organizations and city departments.
- Promote the arts and humanities in the City
- Ensure that every region of the city has access to the arts
Diana Blanchard Gross
Jennifer Blount Sanford
Bess P. Decker
Dr. Barbara B. Laws
Non-profit organizations support art and culture in every Norfolk neighborhood. From youth orchestras, art classes to dance and choirs, the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded $276,900 in grant funding to 30 non-profit organizations for fiscal year 2020. These organizations bring the arts and culture to citizens of all ages and to every corner of the city.
In FY 2017, the organizations pumped more than $5 million into the economy with a combined audience attendance of 240,093. 409 full and part-time paying jobs were created and 2,506 volunteers gave 53,565 hours, a value of $1.3 million.
2020 Grant Recipients
Note: As the coronavirus continues to have an impact on all organizations’ programs, please check with them regarding changes in programming, including live streaming and special events.
Academy of Music offers group and private lessons to children and adults, taught by some of the finest musicians in Hampton Roads. Programs include “Harps on Fire” at Blair Middle School and a violin program at Park Place School. They offer scholarships based on financial need.
Access Virginia provides open captioning and audio description at live theatrical performances so that Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Visually Impaired persons can attend performances and experience the wonder of live entertainment at public facilities.
Arts for Learning, the Virginia Affiliate of Young Audiences provides quality arts-in-education programming throughout Virginia. Children need arts for learning. It sparks their imaginations and feeds their minds. It improves their academic performance and encourages them to stay in school. It connects them to their families, their cultures, and their communities.
Bay Youth Orchestras is one of the largest youth orchestra programs in the country. Over 300 student musicians in grades 3 – 12 study and perform in 6 ensembles. The Bay Youth Symphony Orchestra musicians play a Side-by-Side program with members of the Virginia Symphony.
Boys Choir of Hampton Roads just celebrated their 21st year. Young men ages 7 through high school graduation wow the audience with their performances of classical and contemporary music from “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime” to the music of Mozart.
d’ART Center is located in the NEON arts district. It supports outreach to schools, communities, provide juried exhibitions, and host 26 resident and associate artists.
Feldman Chamber Music Societyhas brought some of the best chamber music to Southeastern Virginia for 74 years. Concerts in the intimate Kaufman Theatre in the Chrysler Museum of Art are preceded by an informative lecture by eminent musicologist Dwight Davis of WHRO – FM.
Generic Theater downunder is literally down under Chrysler Hall. Those who venture down to the bottom level of the Scope garage can find this little theater tucked into the back of the lot, and once inside will be treated to some of the most innovative and daring live theater in the area.
Hermitage Museum & Gardens consists of an early 20th century historic house museum with a world-wide art collection of over 5,000 objects, contemporary exhibition galleries, and a Visual Arts School, surrounded by 12 acres of gardens and wetlands.
Hope House Foundation / Norfolk Artist Award is presented at the spring and fall Stockley Gardens Arts Festivals to recognize an artist from Norfolk. This is one of the premier arts festivals on the East Coast.
The Hurrah Players is presenting its 36th season of high quality, family friendly entertainment. Known for their exuberant musicals and plays, Hurrah Players also offers classes for children (ages 5 and up) and adults. Financial assistance is available, too.
I. Sherman Greene Chorale is in its 49th season. It started with alumni of Booker T. Washington High School alumni, but has now expanded to include community singers as well as college students. Their stirring concerts of classical music, traditional spirituals, and new music by contemporary composers enlighten, energize, and inspire audiences in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Little Theatre of Norfolk is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously operating little theatres in the country. Each season, they present four plays and a musical, all wonderfully produced, and all done by volunteers. Those in the know get tickets early – they often sell out.
Mosaic Steel Orchestra offers year-round classes for children and adults. They have special no-fee, after school classes for junior students as well. Steelpan is art form and students learn music, history, and performance skills. Their music rings out at Military Circle, Blessed Sacrament Church, and other venues throughout Hampton Roads.
ODU, Literary Festival presents readings, lectures, and book signings around a timely theme ever year. Internationally known writers and artists present their work, giving readings and lectures. All events are free and open to the public.
Park Place Child Life Center Arts Classes are offered after school and on Saturdays. Since 2004, more than 600 children have enjoyed arts-based programming designed to advance literacy and encourage a lifetime love of learning. The programs are free for the children and they get homework help, go on exciting field trips, and do reading and math practice.
Primeplus/Norfolk Senior Center offers art and music classes, dance lessons, as well as physical activities for members 5 days a week. A professional musician comes in and leads the seniors (50 and up) in song, improving memory and lifting spirits.
Richmond Ballet “Minds in Motion” brings professional teaching artists and musicians so all fourth or fifth graders at a participating school attend weekly dance classes. Students work toward a performance as a long-term goal, an experience that builds confidence, perseverance, and creativity.
Salvation Army Hampton Roads Area Command presents the “HeartStrings and Valves”
program at the Kroc Center. This partnership with the Virginia Symphony helps children in Title 1 schools in Norfolk in grades 1-5 learn an instrument, starting in 1st grade, where they build their own papier-mâché violins. In second grade they receive a donated violin to practice with at home. They have performed at Chrysler Hall in the dress circle lobby before a Symphony concert.
The Teens with a Purpose provides peer-led/youth-centric programming and environments where youth are seen, heard, valued, and empowered to make safe, healthy lifestyle choices in a creative space for themselves and others. TWP’s 23 years of experience in creative – positive youth development (PYD) has been recognized both regionally and nationally.
The Muse Writers Center is one of the top ten writer centers in the United States. They have classes in poetry, fiction, memoir, and more. You can learn how to write songs, how to craft a realistic courtroom scene, hone your craft in graphic novels. No one is turned away for financial reasons, there is help available.
Tidewater Arts Outreach carries the joys of music and visual arts to the elderly and their caregivers, homeless children and adults, veterans, and other people with special needs. Singing, dancing/movement, visual arts, drama, poetry, and music all have recognized health benefits, and Tidewater Arts Outreach advocates for the arts to foster a healthy climate for arts and healing.
Tidewater Classical Guitar Society brings world-renowned classical guitarists to Hampton Roads, including the Guitar Federation of America Winner. Their own Tidewater Guitar Orchestra tour around the state as part of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Performing Arts Tour Directory and has performed in Costa Rica twice.
Tidewater Winds is one of a few professional, non-profit concert bands performing repertoire ranging from Sousa Marches, to contemporary repertoire to Big Band programming. The professional musicians, staff, and volunteers ensure you are fully engaged and comfortable. They provide free concerts every summer.
Todd Rosenlieb Dance , the area’s only professional dance company, has adaptive dance programs for children with Down syndrome and Autism spectrum disorders. It also has classes for children and adults, and its own professional ensemble produces classical and original modern choreography.
Virginia Children’s Chorus has been teaching children to sing with joy since 1992. Singers are 6-18 years old. They take classes and perform in ensembles. They have sung with the Virginia Symphony, the I. Sherman Greene Chorale, and for the Virginia Arts Festival Tattoo.
Virginia Chorale is the premier professional vocal ensemble in Virginia. Not content to only perform classic works, they partnered with the Virginia Arts Festival to perform in the world premiere production of Kristin Kuster’s KEPT: a ghost story, and sponsored their own contest for women composers.
WHRO produces “Curate,” with original segments featuring local artists. These locally produced segments are combined with other PBS stations’ segments and are broadcast nationally. Each episode is arranged around a central theme and offers a compelling look at artists and their creations.
World Affairs Council of Greater Hampton Roads presents speakers and discussions in matters of international relations, foreign policy and diplomacy. In this uncertain world, their timely topics presented by speakers such as former Secretary of the Navy Dr. John F. Lehman, Ambassador Daniel Fried, and Dr. Trita Parsi, founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council, are more pertinent than ever.