Hampton Roads & the Arts

Creating an Arts Community

Whatever your "Arts" desire; rest assured that it can be found in Hampton Roads. Unique local eateries and familiar chains ~ boutiques and sprawling malls ~ beaches and forests ~ biking and boating.

One of the less known appeals of the Seven Cities is its thriving creative community. Home to dozens of local musicians and amazing venues, Hampton Roads also boasts professional production and recording studios. A small but rapidly growing local film industry is producing internationally acclaimed films. Theater lives on through local actors and comedians. Arts districts and museums abound throughout the area for those looking for a taste of culture.

The Music

Hampton Roads has music in its soul. Music venues are scattered throughout the area, and there’s no shortage of studios or artists eager to use them. There are twenty to thirty musical groups that perform throughout Hampton Roads and its surrounding areas on a full-time basis, slowly but surely building a homegrown fanbase. Five recording studios can be found in Norfolk, and in Portsmouth, Tower Studios has two recording suites and is about to open a third. Musical acts from other parts of the state and from across the country are travel to Norfolk to record in these studios.

Many local bars and smaller venues offer undiscovered artists the chance to perform and build a fanbase. Big name artists such as Pharrell, Modest Mouse, and Neon Trees also love performing in the area. There’s no shortage of larger venues for these A-lister bands that come to Hampton Roads. The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater in Virginia Beach seats up to 20,000 people, while the Scope Arena in Norfolk can seat nearly 14,000. Though there are other, larger venues such as the Ted Constant Convocation Center at ODU in Norfolk or the Portsmouth Pavilion, one of the top venues according to locals in the NorVa in Norfolk. Standing room for only 1,500 people, this venue is always packed and the shows always bring the house down.

The Movies

Everyone knows that Virginia is for Lovers, but more and more, it’s also for Film Lovers. Hampton Roads hosts several small, professional production studios and is home to collegiate filmmakers just getting their foot in the door. Regent University has always had a killer film program, but, within the past few years, Old Dominion University has been building and improving its own program as well.

Film competitions are getting more and more popular in the area. Just last year Campus Moviefest, the world’s largest film festival, came to town for the first time. The ODU film club’s short film not only placed high enough to be screened nationally at the Terminus Festival & Conference in Atlanta, but also screened at Cannes International Film Festival in France. Other popular local competitions include the 48hr Film Project. In this competition, teams of filmmakers sign up to participate and are then given 48 hours to produce a stellar film while adhering to the strict guidelines of the competition. Like Campus MovieFest, the 48HFP is an international competition. This year’s 48HFP has just concluded, with the “Best Of” screening taking place this Saturday.

Aside from colleges and competitions, Virginia has a thriving independent film industry. A variety of showcases and screenings take place throughout the year. The Naro Cinema in Norfolk has a variety of screenings throughout the year, one of the most popular being the “First Look Film Series”. The Mid-Atlantic Film Festival is an annual international competition and showcase hosted at the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center. The Reel it OUT Queer Film Festival, William & Mary Global Film Festival, and Virginia Festival of Jewish film are just a few more of the highlights.

The Performances

Plays, musicals, improv or whatever your performance preference, it can be found in Hampton Roads. Actors, actresses, Comedians, and comediennes abound in the area, showcasing their talents and skills in theaters throughout the Seven Cities.

Still hosting shows and performances, the Crispus Attucks Theatre in Norfolk is one of the oldest thoroughfares in the city, known once as the “Apollo Theatre of the South”. The Virginia Stage Company, Hampton Road’s only professional stage group, is housed in the Wells Theatre in downtown Norfolk. The Little Theater of Virginia Beach gives local performers the opportunity to display their talents as an all-volunteer, nonprofit and audiences the chance to enjoy them at an affordable price. The Generic Theater is known as the area’s “off-Broadway” playhouse as well as for its unique and, sometimes, offbeat fare. This theater highlights those plays that may not have made it to another stage but still deserve to hit the stage.

If comedy is more your cup of tea, fear not for Hampton Roads has plenty to make you laugh as well. The Push Comedy Theater in the NEON district of Norfolk offers live sketches, improv, and stand-up comedy all performed by local artists. The Hurrah Players is another non-profit performance group, this one dedicated to musical theatre and family friendly entertainment. In addition, they offer classes for folks looking to step into the limelight.

The Arts Culture

Nestled amongst the high rises, housing developments, and highways are a variety of museums and arts districts to visit for those so inclined. Every city has its own addition to the artistic culture of Hampton Roads.

The Chrysler Art Museum in Norfolk is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike as the collections are constantly shifting. Adjoined to the Art Museum is the Chrysler Glass Studio where patrons can watch pieces being created in real time or even sign up for a lesson or two and try their hand at it. The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach has alternating exhibits and offers several classes. The Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, housed in a 19th century courthouse, offers classes and camps for children as well as changing exhibits such as the 2017 Outdoor Sculpture Garden in place until October 8th.

The NEON district is one of the more recent developments in Hampton Roads. Found between Ghent and Downtown inn Norfolk, it was number one on Glamour Magazine’s list of “8 US Solo Travel Destinations You Probably Haven’t Thought Of”. Murals hand-painted by local artists adorn many of the building walls, and there’s a variety of shops and opportunities to be found including comedy shows, opera performances, and dozens of unique local restaurants.

The Arts Community

Hampton Roads is more than a disconnected string of artists, musicians, filmmakers, and performers. It’s a community of creatives. These artists thrive on the joy of their audiences and work together to improve themselves and each other. The more people, artists, and audiences that join this community, the more it grows and inspires new talent, soon to be the crowning jewel of Hampton Roads.

Use the Web links below to learn more about the Arts events or locations discussed it this article.


More Information click the links below!


The Naro Cinema

Push Comedy Theater 

The Hurrah Players 

Virginia Film Festival 

The 48HFP 

Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center 

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art 

Chrysler Museum of Art 

Wells Theater 

Little Theater 

Crispus Attucks Theatre in Norfolk 

Regent University 

Old Dominion University

Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater 

Scope Arena

Ted Constant Convocation Center 

Portsmouth Pavilion 




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Shaw, Michelle E. “Music Industry may bring big money to Hampton Roads”. The Virginian-Pilot. 10 June 2007. Web. 15 Aug 2017. https://pilotonline.com/business/music-industry-may-bring-big-money-to-hampton-roads/article_6a8255d0-2156-57ac-b9ac-60b6c1b0f8b0.html\

Stephenson, Melissa. “Norfolk’s NEON District Ranked No.1 in Glamour Magazine’s places to  visit solo”.  WKTR 3 News Now.  14 March 2017. Web. 14 Aug 2017. http://wtkr.com/2017/03/14/norfolks-neon-district-ranked-no-1-in-glamour-magazines-places-to-visit/

Mechanic, Allison. “ODU film to screen at Cannes Film Festival”. 25 April 2017. WKTR 3 News Now. Web. Aug 16 2017. http://wtkr.com/2017/04/25/odu-film-to-screen-at-cannes-film-festival/

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