Virginia Beach arts champions to be recognized in walk of fame

Barbara Lewis (center) receives the first annual Virginia Beach Champion of the Arts award. (Courtesy city of Virginia Beach)
Barbara Lewis (center) receives the first annual Virginia Beach Champion of the Arts award. (Courtesy city of Virginia Beach)

Virginia Beach is getting its own Hollywood-style walk of fame at Town Center.

The city’s Arts & Humanities Commission unveiled its “Champion for the Arts” award last week, a new annual honor for those who work behind-the-scenes on behalf of the arts in the city. Winners’ names will be etched in brick in front of the Sandler Center, creating a path near the intersection of Commerce and Market streets.

The first brick, with inductee Barbara Lewis’ name, will be laid in about two months at a to-be-scheduled ceremony when the brick is completed, according to Commissioner Laura Nguyen.

The commission wanted a way to honor community members who went “above and beyond” in raising awareness or funds for the arts in Virginia Beach, Nguyen said. The idea is the first recommendation from the city’s recently adopted 15-year arts plan that the commission will tackle.

Lewis is a long-time advocate for the arts who is behind the Dancing with the Hampton Roads Celebrity Stars fundraiser, among others. Nguyen said she is a perfect first inductee.

Lewis received a framed certificate at last week’s City Council meeting in recognition of Champion for the Arts award. She had come thinking she was there to advocate for the arts. When she learned about the award and that she was brought to accept the first one, she was at a loss for words.

“I’m here,” she said. “I’m speechless. Thank you very much.”

The Arts & Humanities Commission began discussing ways to recognize local arts supporters in a big way early this year, said Carolyn Garrett, the commission chairwoman.

“And we thought, what better way to honor (winners) than to use the resources of the Sandler Center,” which sells engraved bricks placed outside its doors for revenue, Nguyen said.

“They deserve recognition outside of their name being hung in a frame,” she said.

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