The Canoes

New Waterfront Sculpture Floats on the Rich Tides of History and Art

Ten aluminum canoes are now permanently docked at the Lynnhaven Inlet. But, these are no ordinary canoes; they are part of a beautiful new sculpture by nationally renowned artist, Donald Lipski. The Canoes is the latest gift to the City from the Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation, a group of volunteers dedicated to enhancing our public spaces with extraordinary art.

The 36-foot sculpture is poised on the pedestrian overlook of the new Lesner Bridge welcoming visitors into the beauty and history of the Chesapeake Bay area. Artist Donald Lipski chose the canoe as the medium of his sculpture to create an immediate tie to the water with the most basic historic water craft. Each canoe has an intricate, lacy filigree design cut out of its aluminum, reminiscent of the decorative arts of the early settlers. “My hope is that this sculpture speaks to your history, to what you are today and to what you will be tomorrow,” Lipski said.

In the early 1600s residents along the shores of the Lynnhaven River needed passage between the River and the Bay. Adam Keeling, whose plantation, “Ye Dudlies,” was situated at the mouth of the Lynnhaven River, organized a group of people to work out a solution. The group dug a trench across a huge sandbar that was just wide enough to permit the passage of a canoe. But, almost immediately after the trench was complete, a severe storm caused unusually high tides in the Chesapeake Bay to rush through the ditch into the Lynnhaven River, enlarging the trench to what is now the Lynnhaven Inlet.

The Canoes is a delicate yet powerful beacon, and a welcoming gateway and icon for the Bayfront area. It is softly lit in the evening by LED lights for visibility, and features a seating area overlooking spectacular views. “The board of Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation, comprised of private volunteer citizens, is pleased and fortunate to present to our city this extraordinary sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Donald Lipski. The Canoes will be a symbol of light and beauty, at once a sun burst and beautiful broach and at night becoming a microcosm of soft light,” said Andrew Fine, President of the Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation.

The Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation

The Canoes is funded by private donations raised from the community by the Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation. The gift of The Canoes to the community will continue the Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation’s legacy to enhance our public spaces with extraordinary art and to bring works to the community that are free and accessible to view and enjoy.

About the Artist

Donald Lipski began his notable career at New York Gallery Artists Space in 1978 with his early installation Gathering Dust, thousands of tiny sculptures pinned to a wall. The piece traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of the Project series. He won the first of three National Endowment for the Arts grants, followed by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1988, and many more national and museum awards in the decades to follow. Lipski’s installations spanned the country’s museums and galleries through the 1990s.

In recent years, Lipski has focused on creating large-scale works for public spaces. Some of his most recognizable works include The Yearling outside the Denver Public Library (originally exhibited in New York City); Sirshasanahanging in the Grand Central Market, Grand Central Terminal in New York City; F.I.S.H. at the San Antonio River Walk, and in 2013, Ship of Pearl, at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. More details and images of Lipski’s awards and work can be found at