NEON Festival celebrates Norfolk’s new energy

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The mural "Bloom" was painted on the back of 801 Boush Street in 2015 by FANGGANG artists Charles Rasputin and Carl Medley. (Courtesy Charles Rasputin)

The mural “Bloom” was painted on the back of 801 Boush St. in 2015 by FANGGANG artists Charles Rasputin and Carl Medley. (Courtesy Charles Rasputin)

The New Energy of Norfolk (NEON) is something that can’t be escaped.

But then again, who would want to?

This weekend Norfolk will celebrate that new energy at the second NEON Festival. The four-day event honors the NEON District, a special place in the city where the whole neighborhood is a canvas, said Charles Rasputin, a conceptual artist and creative director of Granby Street arts venue Work|Release.

Rasputin is also one half of FANGGANG, along with Carl Medley. For last year’s NEON Festival the pair painted “Bloom,” which includes giant roses and fangs on the back of 801 Boush St.

During each NEON Festival, “Bloom” becomes activated with projection mapping that loops video onto the fangs of the mural, Rasputin said.

This year’s festival, which kicked off Thursday night at the Chrysler Museum of Art, will see live music, dance performances, puppetry and new art unveiled on privately owned buildings, said Downtown Norfolk Council spokeswoman Rachel McCall.

“This year is bigger,” McCall said. “It’s really encouraging to see everyone really taking the NEON and making it their own.”

A predecessor of the upcoming local display, titled “Seep NFK.” (Courtesy of Downtown Norfolk Council)

A predecessor of the upcoming local display, titled “Seep NFK.” (Courtesy of Downtown Norfolk Council)

Among new art added to the district is Erik L. Peterson’s “Seep NFK,” a giant, pink neon sculpture that oozes down the side of 801 Granby St. The community celebrated the installation’s unveiling at 9 p.m. on Friday, McCall said.

“We’ve been working on this project for over a year,” she added. “It’s a sculpture that was first shown in Work|Release, and the artist fell in love with the neon.”

New murals include Richmond artist Amelia Langford’s “The Dance,” which features two fish dancing with flowers on Moseley Lane. Next to it is a “swirly cubist” piece by artist and Norfolk State University professor Solomon Isekeije, McCall said.

The NEON District is beautiful, but it’s about more than art – it’s about finding and celebrating commonality, Rasputin said.

“Once the music fades and murals are finished, and it’s just another wall in your community, the memories and inspiration are still there,” Rasputin said. “(Usually festivals) are all driven by food and drinks. As a culture we can get outside that low-hanging fruit and really get weird – really see ourselves as we are.”

To learn more about NEON Festival, like the event on Facebook.

Pictures of NEON Festival 2016’s opening night at the Chrysler Museum of Art:

Act. 3 Nucleus             Act 3 Nucleus             Act 2 Fauna             Act 1 Shiva             Act 1 Shiva             Act 1 Shiva             Act 1 Shiva             Act 1 Shiva

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