It's hard to believe that the NEON Festival turned four this go-round, but Norfolk's fledgling Arts District appears to be yet thriving despite the slings and arrows it's suffered over the past year with the turnover of Work Release to Commune, the shuttering of Glass Wheel, and the previous year's closure of Alchemy's studio spaces -(though the overall brand continues as a powerhouse with founders Charles Rasputin and Careyann Weinberg's continuing at the helm.) While it's getting more hazy in my memory as to the exact origins of this space dedicated to the celebration of both local and national artists -- I suppose it may be most easily traced to the heady days of 2010's Art Everywhere.
The public art installations were diverse. I took a meandering and organic street approach to this year's coverage, simply allowing sights and sounds to direct my feet. Mallory Jarrell's #ILYNFKVA showcases the artist's transition from purely digital work into painting, especially highlighted through her incorporation of the Mona Lisa in the piece for a stunning, vibrant effect. Notice Me #13 by Lori Pratico features a powerful statement combining a temporary mural space slated to be torn down within a month or so with local, inspirational women of color who make a positive impact on communities. This is one of an ongoing series titled, Girl Noticed -- that is spreading out across the country. I was highly impressed by the work of local LGBQT+ artists given prominence through pop-up U-Haul studios with highly provocative and timely installations running a gamut from body positivity to themes of acceptance, as well as a public shaming of well-known right-wing figures who advocate against tolerance. Of all the pieces I experienced this night, these were among the most powerful to me. The show, curated by Cat Baker, included work from her alongside Janice Dulay, Ashley Berkman , Ashley Berkman, Frances Grinnan, Cat Boyd, and Breay Fee.
Quinton Jennings-Sherman reprised his hosting of Teens with a Purpose on the main stage to excellent effect this year. I didn't catch all of the music acts, but enjoyed what I heard. BJ Griffin and Jason Brown featured inside the Glass Wheel. Alt rockers, The Great Noise, who we last reviewed opening for Pain in the Yeahs at the Taphouse, put on a great set in the Cofer Lot towards the end of the evening.
My only real complaint is that we only do this once a year -- I think the city is missing an opportunity to do it more often.
Some sort of bicycle-based game of polo was going on behind the Glass Wheel. I watched for a bit but couldn't quite figure out the rules.
One of Christopher Revels' "Walking Houses" was spotted making a break for it.
Patrons in a momentarily ressurected Glass WHeel.
"Brother, can you spare some pants?"
Q5 tears it up on the main stage.
A young lady poses at the DCPG photobooth.
This backpack rocks.
5 points to Gryffindor for the most excellent game of chess Hogwarts has seen in some time.
Zeke's was rockin all night.
Something Beautiful announced Cardinal Skate Shop's arrival with style as a central point in the NEON with a skateboard themed show.
I'm still not sure what this was about, but it looked fun.
Coffee waits at Commune.
That was a big ass dog.
Portrait of the Artist struggling with focus.
B-Boy silently judges a bored boy.
A secret passageway gives instructions? Or just somebody's office? You decide.
Billy Mercury in conversation with a friend.
And peace back to you, brother.
Taking it in.
A remnant of Work Release.
The Pushers jammed all night.
Folks viewing part of the UHauled exhibit, my favorite experience of the evening.
I didn't catch this rapper's name -- he was ushered off the stage just after he appeared to forget the nature of the general audience and dropped some B-Words and N-Bombs. He was poppin, though. I myself have been kicked out of more than one Barnes and Nobles reading for prodigious of fuck, so I can't judge.
Public art has boundaries, I suppose. I myself prefer unfettered expression so long as no one is being harmed, but these aren't words that can be casually thrown around.. Hard to say which side of the fence I come down on with this. If it was mere profanity, I probably wouldn't have cared. But the specific words he was using carry certain meanings that are difficult to tolerate in an age of inclusivity.
Just add painters.
The Great Noise brought their A Game.
As I was walking back to my bike to call it night, I smiled at hearing back in the distance the band nail an F-Bomb while covering Alanis Morrisette's 'You Oughtta Know." Rock and Roll lives, even if the promoters were less than thrilled.