Building Community Through The Arts: 31 Years of Stockley Gardens

by Shannon Bowman

Building community takes art. Music. Food. Laughter. A willingness to work together. Most of all, it takes vision.

The Stockley Gardens Arts Festival celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2014. The event was created when the original Ghent Arts Festival organizers decided to move the show, which benefitted the Norfolk Free Clinic, to Town Point Park. Many artists didn’t want to leave the beautiful Stockley Gardens setting, and they campaigned for another nonprofit to take over the show. Hope House Foundation stepped up, and what is now one of the best art shows in Eastern Virginia was born. The festival directors over the years have worked hard to preserve the original intent of the show, which is to build our community of inclusion and acceptance through the arts.

More than 130 artists are featured exhibiting painting, glass, sculpture, photography, jewelry and more. The competition for space is tough with several hundred artists applying for the coveted spaces. All artists are selected by a jury panel for inclusion in the show. A nationally recognized artist or curator judges the artists at the show and awards cash prizes. There is also an Emerging Artist Competition with cash prizes for college and high school students, as well as recent graduates. Award winners are announced during the Art Party, which is held Saturday evening on the Main Stage. Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos will perform at the Art Party from 5 to 7 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

This spring, the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival will draw artists from across the country and visitors from throughout the region on May 16 and 17. Walk, ride a bike, take a water taxi, shuttle or kayak to enjoy all of the festivities. There will be plenty of children’s activities and vendors with an assortment of tasty offerings.  Hope House Foundation has added a beer garden during the day featuring selections from O’Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk on May 16th.

One of the favorite features of the Festival is the Hope House Foundation Pop-Up Thrift Shop. Treasures from the Thrift Shop at 1800 Monticello Avenue are hand selected for the show. Serious collectors get there early to find something special, and items for sale include art, home décor items, linens, books and albums.

There is a reason Hope House Foundation agreed to organize the festival 30 years ago. These gatherings have helped to build relationships with community organizations, businesses and neighbors who have supported Hope House in countless ways. Hope House Foundation is the only organization in Virginia that serves people with developmental and intellectual disabilities exclusively in their own homes. They have been advocating and leading the charge for decades that people with disabilities deserve the kind of life that we all enjoy. That includes a choice of where they live, the opportunity to work, the chance to volunteer in their community and the right to live independently.

The spring 2015 Stockley Gardens Arts Festival poster was designed by Ann Dearsley Vernon, a long-time supporter. Ann is currently retired and was previously the education director with the Chrysler Museum of Art. It’s all free. So, grab your friends and family and join Hope House Foundation and WHRO for a weekend of fun.

More details here.