No matter where your travels take you in the City of Virginia Beach, you are bound to run into beautiful, impactful and diverse public art installations! Whether you’re peering at “The Canoes” on Shore Drive, surrounded by the butterflies of “Parallel Migrations” during your stroll in the park at Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area or watching “Wings” in flight outside of the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, you’ll find public art to be a major piece of the vibrancy of Virginia Beach culture.
One of the most prominent areas of Virginia Beach is our world-famous oceanfront, which, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, contains the longest pleasure beach in the world! We hope when you journey down to the beach for some fun in the sun, you’ll enjoy some of Virginia Beach’s finest public art along the boardwalk.
Rudee Loop Area (1st-5th Streets)
JT’s Grommet Island is the first beach playground designed for adults and children of all physical capabilities, and was inspired by Josh Thompson, a Virginia Beach local and avid surfer who was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2006. When Josh was unable to access the beach in his wheelchair, the idea for the 100% handicap accessible oceanfront park was born, with JT’s Grommet Island opening in 2010.
Anticipation was commissioned to honor Josh and the fight against ALS and is dedicated to the JT Walk participants who have made JT’s Grommet Island a reality. Funds for park maintenance and other ALS-related causes are raised each year during the JT Walk & Beach Party, which has become the largest ALS walk in the country.
“Prismatic Play” is a fun and colorful addition to the wall along the 3rd Street Parking Lot area. The mural depicts a crowd of octopus and squid enjoying popular Oceanfront activities like grabbing a slice of pizza or an ice cream cone!
“Seashore Cathedral” is a series of murals that utilize a geometric style, giving the impression of stained glass. Each column features detailed vignettes that represent different aspects of the area that make Virginia Beach unique. In the artist’s words, “I want to create the idea that the whole underpass, in the area of the columns, is made of stained glass, giving lightness and brightness to the atmosphere.” On the back wall, Pepe pays homage to Paul DiPasquqle’s iconic statue, “King Neptune” that can be seen at the 31st Street Neptune Park at the Oceanfront.
This dynamic artwork that embodies the spirit of Virginia Beach and the activities of the Rudee Inlet can be seen on the underpass columns of the Rudee Walkway that connects the marina to 4th Street municipal lot.
“Peace Doves” by Sean Coffey and John Muldoon, 4th Street
“Peace Doves” by Sean Coffey and John Muldoon is a new mural on the inner walls of the Rudee Loop. After hearing of the May 31 tragedy, Coffey and Muldoon reached out to the City of Virginia Beach offering to donate their mural. “Peace Doves,” a play on origami birds and shadows, was created to show that communities can overcome anything if they work together, and to remind us all that there is light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.
Drawing inspiration from the vivid Walt Whitman poem of the same name, “World Below the Brine” simulates the ever-changing landscape above and below the water’s surface. A canopy that captures wind and sunlight will translate both into a captivating "play of light through the water." A tall framework anchored by concrete benches will support a grid of 200 wind paddles with sand cast glass counterweights that undulate with the ocean breeze. During the day, visitors will walk below the piece and be covered in moving diffused light and shadow. At night it will be illuminated with LED lighting that will respond to the movements of visitors, creating the visual of a floating anemone visible to passers-by from Atlantic Avenue and the nearby Rudee Inlet Bridge.
Central Oceanfront (12th-25th Streets)
Virginia Beach's historic DeWitt Cottage is home to the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and Back Bay Wildfowl Guild. The Museum exhibits wildfowl art, carvings, artifacts, and photographs. David H. Turner's Mallards sculpture, commissioned in 2006, was the perfect addition to this repertoire. The sculpture features five bronze mallard ducks on a brick base and is displayed outside the Cottage.
“Barreled” celebrates Virginia Beach’s surfing culture and takes inspiration from one of the most sought out and short-lived experiences in surfing, riding through the barrel of a wave.
The installation is constructed out of a tubular steel system and acrylic panels that represent the ocean’s oscillating balance of power and fragility. Each arch unfolds from wall to ceiling and ending with a seating component that encourages human interactions. Each steel “wave” in “Barreled” is also spaced out perfectly for a socially-distanced selfie opportunity. Thanks to generous donations from the Virginia Beach business community, the installation is accompanied by “Broken Current,” a collaboration with local artist Navid Rahman, which illustrates powerful rip currents and tidal currents created by ocean waves.
Norwegian sculptor Ornulf Bast was commissioned to create two nine-foot bronze replicas of the original figurehead from the Norwegian barque "Dictator,” which was lost in the coastal waters of Virginia Beach near present-day 37th Street in 1891. Commissioned in 1962, one was placed on 25th Street in Virginia Beach, and the other was erected in Moss, Norway, which was officially named the Beach's "sister city" in 1974. Each statue gazes across the Atlantic, giving the appearance of facing her sister.
The Naval Aviation Monument on 25th Street at the Oceanfront honors Virginia Beach's extensive aviation heritage. Commissioned by the Hampton Roads Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation, the monument showcases three eras of naval aviation. The first statue depicts Eugene Ely, the first aviator to fly off a ship's deck. Another scene shows a World War II pilot and his crew scramble out of a flight deck hatch. A male pilot, female pilot, and maintenance chief gathered around an unloaded bomb skid depict the modern era of aviation. And finally, the scene of a wife greeting her pilot husband with their children reflects the joy of a Navy homecoming.
Boardwalk North End (26th-40th Streets)
This copper and bronze grinning sun on 27th Street at the Oceanfront was dedicated to Sunny Day Guide co-founder Bob Mervis. Mervis died unexpectedly in 1998 after more than 30 years of capturing the essence of Virginia Beach on the glossy pages of his Sunny Day Guide. Mervis shot aerial photographs of the beach from a helicopter in the early mornings, wrote ad copy by day, and capped off his nights snapping pictures at local bars and clubs. After Mervis' death, his wife, Debbie, and friends wanted to honor his contribution to Virginia Beach tourism with this memorial. Award-winning artist Linda Gissen was commissioned to complete the statue.
Proudly welcoming local residents and visitors alike, a 34-foot, cast bronze Neptune sculpture stands at the gateway to Neptune Park and the threshold of the sea.
Constructed entirely through the generosity of private contributions gathered by the Neptune Festival, this statue is dedicated to the city of Virginia Beach and its citizens. Surrounded by the creatures of his realm, mighty trident in hand, Neptune's gaze rests affectionately on the shore. His heroic visage honors the maritime legacy of Virginia Beach while also standing as a vivid reminder of the community's duty to respect and protect our natural blessings.
Designed by Paul DiPasquale, the widely acclaimed sculptor who created Virginia Beach's iconic statue of King Neptune, the Law Enforcement Memorial was dedicated June 23, 2012.
The memorial features three bronze officers representing the Virginia Beach Police Department, the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office and the state and federal agencies that protect the citizens of Virginia Beach and visitors to our city. The officers have interlocking hands, symbolizing their support for one another as their other hand reaches out to citizens below, extending help to the community. The interlocking hands are lit from below with a soft blue light. Names of the fallen officers are inscribed on the granite base of the memorial.
Our country's only monument to the Navy SEALs is a compelling tribute to both SEALs and Virginia Beach’s important part in their story. Action photos etched on its black granite surface illustrate a summary of SEAL history and descriptions of the Monument’s many layers of significance. The centerpiece Naked Warrior statue of a WWII combat swimmer ready for action stands on a Living Beach of sand from places all over the world where SEALs and their forefathers trained and fought. Gold stars and pawprints honoring SEALs and their war dogs killed in the line of duty adorn the walls. Designed for visitors of all ages, the SEAL Monument was donated to the City by the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in 2017 and is on the Boardwalk at 38th Street.
We hope you enjoy your journey through the Virginia Beach Public Art at the oceanfront. As you can see, this area is a rich hub of arts and culture, and new pieces are constantly being added. Before you head out to the boardwalk, make sure to grab a Public Art Guide from the Virginia Beach Visitors’ Center, or pull up a virtual Public Art Guide on your phone at bit.ly/VBPublicArtMap! Be sure to tag us in your social media photos of our City’s art @vabeacharts and use the hashtag #vbpublicart.