The NEON Festival is in its 5th year and is featuring its first international artist

The iconic NEON District sign sits at the mouth of the district. (Southside Daily/Melanie Occhiuzzo)
The iconic NEON District sign sits at the mouth of the district. (Southside Daily file)

NORFOLK — The New Energy of Norfolk, or NEON District, is celebrating five years of public art with five new murals, including some added color at the Wyndham Garden Norfolk Downtown by NEON’s first international artist from Australia, Karri McPherson.

Silas Baker’s “XENON,” Charley Francis’ “When Chameleons Roller Skate,” Victoria Weiss’ “3 Muses,” and “The Dream Machine” by Jeff Beck come just in time for the fifth annual NEON Festival on Thursday and Friday when residents and visitors alike will converge to show their appreciation for the public, culinary, and performing arts.

Now with more than 100 different works of art in scales ranging from public benches to full murals by a growing number of artists, Rachel McCall, a special projects manager for the Downtown Norfolk Council said she’s happy to know the city’s young art district is reaching a broader audience.

After this year’s open call, the council tapped a range of artists from Ocean View and Virginia Beach to North Carolina, Ohio, and Australia, “every year we really try to cover our bases and include opportunities locally, regionally, and nationally,” McCall said.

The opportunity made it to the international level when it sparked McPherson’s interest all the way in Australia.

McPherson would have to make her way to the U.S., but once she did, she had a platform for her “Geometric Configuration #1, #2, and #3,” in Downtown Norfolk.

RELATED STORY: The NEON Festival needs local artists. Here’s the deal

A new festival event is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to highlight five local artists and NEON alum when they sit on an artist panel to discuss life after creating their public work in the art district.

“I’m thrilled to see them come back to talk about their experiences,” McCall said. “They’ve had so many more commissions since working in NEON so were thrilled they kind of have their start and keep moving on to cool things.”

The NEON District is home to the Chrysler Museum of Art and Harrison Opera House and spaces officials said provide artists a place to create and show in studios like d’Art Center and the Rutter Family Art Foundation. 

The NEON Festival is free and open to the public and will feature pop-up galleries, food trucks, mural tours, and programming from Tidewater Community College, Teens with a Purpose, Governor’s School of the Arts, Hurrah Players, Virginia Opera, Old Dominion University, WHRO and more.

Learn more and see the full list of exhibitions, events, and entertainment by clicking here. 

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Lucretia Cunningham is a multimedia journalist at Southside Daily covering hyper-local stories in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Her stories focus on public safety, tourism, and city government. She is a Virginia transplant and military spouse originally from Chicago. Lucretia also served on active duty from 2006 to 2016 and started her journalism career as a broadcaster in the Virginia Air National Guard. When she’s not covering stories on the Southside, she’s covering stories with her Air National Guard unit.