Arts festival benefits displaced artists

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A long-running arts festival in Norfolk took on new meaning Saturday for some artists selling their work.

An explosion at the D’Art Center downtown last month essentially brought business to a standstill. That’s why Saturday’s festival at Stockley Gardens in Ghent was so important to the artists.

“It’s a fun show, it’s a great show,” said D’Art Artist Vonnie Whitworth.

Whitworth has made a career out of selling her works of art.

“This is everything for my husband and I. We make a living doing this and have been for 45 years,” said Whitworth.

For the last 30 years, she has been showcasing her work at Stockley Gardens, alongside 120 other artists.

“It’s a huge variety of three-dimensional, two-dimensional, glass, jewelry, paintings,” said Whitworth.

But for the woman who specializes in watercolor paintings, this year feels a little different.

Whitworth said, “Anything that I had on the floor was vulnerable, that can’t be replaced.”

Whitworth is one of 42 artists displaced after an explosion inside the D’Art Center inside the Selden Arcade downtown.

“It was devestating,” she said.

Without her art friends and without customers, business for the last month has been hard to come by, she says.

“I miss it very much, very much.”

With thousands of dollars lost in profits, she has been hoping the exposure this weekend in Ghent will fuel some of her lost business.

“I have sold some work this morning so that’s good, off to a good start!” she said.

Work to rebuild the Selden Arcade is already in progress. But Whitworth says it could be six months before the city of Norfolk opens the doors back up.

“Now we’re thinking we need to look for an alternate space for the time being, maybe an off-site that we can all still gather and show our work,” she said.

She says a temporary space would help get her work noticed while she’s without a permanent location. A trying time for the artist — who through devastation — is moving forward with a half-glass-full kind of attitude.

“In some kind of crazy way this explosion has sort of put us on the map,” said Whitworth.

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