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The Portsmouth, Virginia Public Art Catalog is a compendium of public art installations around the city. The City of Portsmouth and the Portsmouth Museum and Fine Arts Commission (PMFAC) work with a variety of agencies and artists to create, install and maintain a vibrant public art program with installations throughout the City. Support Portsmouth Public Art (SPPA), a private non-profit is perhaps the most active of these agencies and you will see them referenced throughout this catalog. There are a number of privately funded and street art murals not associated with the City that round out the catalog of Portsmouth Public Art. From murals and sculptures to painted electrical boxes and a trail of toads in storefront windows, the majority of the installations are found in Olde Towne and the area known as the Portsmouth Arts and Cultural District. Here is a list of the Portsmouth Public Art exhibits you can find all around the city.
Whimsical Streetscape Mural
King St. and Middle St. Mall, behind the Children’s Museum of Virginia
Designed and painted by Sam Welty. Reflects the spheres and cubes found in the pedestrian mall.
Baron’s Pub Mural
500 High Street, Back Wall
Designed and painted by Coast Guard member, Adam Stanton in 2018. The only current example of street art in Olde Towne.
Speckled Trout Mural
464 Dinwiddie Street (Tuthill Law Firm)
Designed and painted by Sam Welty. The Speckled Trout is a native fish and can be found in numerous grassy flats in the Elizabeth River. The mural was commissioned by SPPA and the PMFAC.
The Naval Shipyard Mural
2 High Street (faces Water Street) at the Naval Shipyard Museum
Designed and painted by Sam Welty. Panels depict woodworking at the age of sail, blacksmithing in the age of the Ironclad, the iconic hammerhead crane, and the men and women of shipbuilding during WWII.
Playful Children Mural
301 High Street (rooftop level ) Best seen from north side of High Street or the second level of the Children’s Museum of Virginia
Painted by local artist Sam Welty, the mural was imagined and commissioned by Support Portsmouth Public Art and Portsmouth Economic Development.
The Battle of Craney Island Mural
715 High Street (East side of Building)
Artist Sam Welty created a series of “Great America” murals and this is the fourth in his series. It features the famous War of 1812 battle led by Captain Arthur Emmerson at Hoffler Creek and is one of the few land battles won by the Americans with no American casualties. Commissioned by the Portsmouth Heritage Initiative.
Commodore James Barron Mural
606 Court Street
Painted by Sam Welty in 2015, the mural honors Commodore James Barron (Commodore Theater and Baron’s Pub) who commanded a number of famous ships including the USS Essex, USS President, and the USS Chesapeake. Commodore baron is most famous for killing American War hero Stephen Decatur in a duel. Baron is buried in nearby Trinity cemetery. The mural is a part of Sam Welty’s “Great America” series and was commissioned by Support Portsmouth Public Art and the Portsmouth Museum and Fine Arts Commission.
Portsmouth Fantasy Engine
King Street and Middle Street Mall
Painted by Victoria Weiss, with the assistance of Shayne Crivard, the mural was originally created in 2020 to cover a broken entrance window at the Children’s Museum of Virginia. Once the window was repaired, the mural moved to it’s current location.
Disabled Veterans Mural
72 Afton Parkway (Historic Cradock)
Honors the disabled veterans, showing them engaged in an active lifestyle despite their disabilities. The mural was commissioned in 2019 by SPPA and PMFAC and painted by Sam Welty.
Cradock Library Mural
28 Prospect Parkway (around the back)
Illustrates the importance of reading the the mission of libraries to house and curate books. It consists of two large murals painted by Churchland art students and numerous smaller murals involving the illusion of light, birds, flowers, books, fountains created by SPPA members and volunteers.(See Small Works Gallery below for example of smaller murals),
The Circle Restaurant Mural
High and London (on the west facing wall at Import Autowerks)
The Circle Restaurant was in institution in Portsmouth from 1947 until closing in 2008. It was on the National Register of Historic Places but has since been torn down. Inside the restaurant was an Al Hirschfeld-style mural featuring celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, and Dean Martin. Unfortunately, the original mural was lost, but in 2017, it was painted by SPPA members for its current location. A few extra local celebrities were added to the original cast of characters. SPPA also rescued and restored the original neon from the Circle.
Admiral Cradock Mural
Gillis Road and Afton Parkway (facing Gillis Road)
Painted by artist Sam Welty with assistance from over 20 SPPA volunteers and art students. It was funded by SPPA, Anne Singleton- the building owner, PMFAC, local VFW, and Cradock Civic League. The mural features Sir Christopher George Francis Maurice Cradock, the namesake for the Historic Cradock neighborhood, one of the first planned communities in America. Cradock is best known for commanding British naval forces in the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile in 1914. The mural was painted in 2018 to commemorate the 100ths anniversary of the Cradock neighborhood with funding from SPPA.
Paradise Creek Mural
Paradise Creek Nature Park – Victory Boulevard
Features the native plants and animals that thrive in the brackish waters of Paradise Creek. Painted by local artist. Funded by SPPA and the Elizabeth River Commission.
The Mission Continues-Dr. King Tribute
1600 Portsmouth Boulevard – Bloom Where You Are Planted Flower Shop
Portsmouth artist, Chris Green (@cg_paints) painted this tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King as a part of The Mission Continues Service Project Hamtpn Roads. The mural was sponsored by members of the Brighton Community with the support of Kids Kick Foundation and the Prince of Peace Church. It was dedication on MLK Day 2020.
Coffee and Tea in Bright Colors
2215 High Street at Tidewater Coffee, Inc.
Mural features coffee beans, grinders, presses, tea bags, tea pots, mugs, and a variety of tools used in maintaining and repairing high end espresso machines throughout the region. The artist is Mason Alexander, better known as Stone Cold Nasty. He attended ODU but now resides in Charlottesville. Look for more of his work coming soon at Tidewater Coffee.
“Before I Die” Wall
Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve – Towne Point Road
The Before I Die project re-imagines the ways the walls of our cities can help us grapple with death and meaning as a community today. Thanks to the thousands of people who have created walls in their communities, Before I Die has become a global participatory public art project that reimagines our relationship with death and with one another. The original wall was created on an abandoned house in New Orleans by artist Candy Chang after the death of someone she loved. Since then, over five thousand Before I Die walls have been created in seventy-eight countries around the world. Learn more on the Before I Die Project page. The Portsmouth version allows children to draw in square spaces on the reverse side what they saw during their visit to the preserve.
Cradock Skateboard Park – George Washington Highway
Murals were painted by local artists, NDiyah Black, Tameka Bright, Andrew Currence, and Matthew Diggs, aided by many neighbors. The various ramps around the park all have mural art. Sponsored by SPPA, Hard Times Skate Shop, and Sherwin-Williams.
High and Hatton Streets (mural was removed by property owner)
Street art appearing in the summer of 2020. Artist unknown.
Afton Theater Facade
Afton Square – Cradock
Afton Theater mural was painted by SPPA and a few local neighbors recreating the original facade of a building that was left in disrepair.
Car Ferry Electrical Box
High Street Landing (North side near Naval Shipyard Museum)
Painted by Howard Baskin, the mural shows one of the original car ferries operating between Portsmouth and Norfolk.
Portsmouth is For Kids Electrical Box
High Street Landing (South Side)
Artist unknown. Reminds us that Portsmouth is a great place to raise a family and home to the largest Children’s Museum in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Courthouse Square Electrical Box
400 Court Street (High and Court)
Artist unknown. Painted to show what the square might look like when the courthouse was built in 1846.
Ricky Price as Colonel Crawford
420 High Street (facing the courtyard)
Ricky Price portrayed Colonel William Crawford, founder of Portsmouth, for over ten years. Upon his death and to celebrate his achievements, the mural was conceived and funded by SPPA and the numerous friends of Ricky Price. It was painted by Linwood Pettaway and Leon Johnson. Today, Mary Veale and the Colonials portray many characters from Portsmouth’s past except Crawford as Ricky Price could never be replaced in his original portrayal.
We Are Portsmouth
541 High Street
Painted by artists from the Unique Art Shop of Olde Towne, it reflects the artist’s vision of what Portsmouth is today and contains both positive and negative messaging. The shops motto is “unique art from liberated minds.”
Tribute to Portsmouth Music
City Park Amphitheatre
These four individual paintings feature famous musicians from Portsmouth including Tommy Newsome, Ruth Brown, and Bill Deal and the Rhondels. These murals were painted by Mandy Smith and sponsored by Support Portsmouth Public Art and the Portsmouth Museum and Fine Arts Commission.
Tribute to Mayor James Holley, III
City Park Pavilion Portsmouth City Park
Painted by artist Linwood Pettiway, the mural depicts the city’s beloved mayor in his golfing attire. Mayor Holley served the city for over twenty years and was an avid golfer for most of his life. The work was conceived and funded by SPPA and PMFAC.
Small Works Gallery at Cradock
Cradock Library 28 Prospect Parkway (at the back)
Painted by Churchland High School students, there are numerous small paintings filling niches and along the main wall at the back of the library. (See also Cradock Library in large scale murals above).
Paradise Creek Arch – Kids Paradise
Paradise Creek Nature Park – Victory Boulevard
The arch marks the entrance to the children’s playground and features a snowy egret and natural reeds, both common to the brackish waters of Paradise Creek. Painted by local artist and funded by SPPA and Elizabeth River Project Commission.
Wisteria – Poetry on a Fence
Corner of Glasgow and Middle Streets, along the playground fence
The poem is contained in 3 separate panels. It was written over a century ago by a Virginia poet named Brodie Herndon. It concerns the absence of an elderly gentleman, thought to be a family doctor of school principal, who no longer walks down that street. Artist Jamie Cosumano painted and it was funded by SPPA.
10 Crawford Parkway (along the Seawall)
Designed by Orlen Stauffer, fabricated by Irving Wolff, this is one of over 100 Love sculptures throughout Virginia and a part of Virginia is for Lovers brand. The work was conceived and funded by SPPA and PMFAC.
On the Middle Street Pedestrian Mall
Created by Karen and Tony Barone
One of 33 R Hero sculptures in the US placed to honor firefighters and first responders who protect both humans and animals.
I’ve Been Kissed sculpture
221 High Street (at the Middle Street Mall)
Designed and fabricated by Pokey Park. Notice the toad has human fingernails showing that it was human or will become human soon. This was the very first project undertaken by SPPA.
Cement Frieze from Original IC Norcom High School
904 Elm Avenue (at base of wheel chair access ramp)
Artist unknown. Cement casting showcasing the arts was fabricated for the first IC Norcom High School which opened on Turnpike Road in 1953. While the High Street School originally opened in 1913 as Portsmouth’s first high school for black students, it was later renamed IC Norcom in honor of the school’s first Supervising Principal, Israel Charles Norcom.
Statue of Colonial William Craford (Crawford)
200 High St. At the corner of Crawford and High St.
Portsmouth Sculptor Sue Landerman created the likeness of Crawford which faces the location of his old plantation house. Colonial Crawford founded Portsmouth is 1752.
Sculptured Brick Athletes
206 High Street (on the side wall facing Middle Street)
Designed by local sculptor Sue Landerman and commissioned by the former Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Museum, these athletes can be found on the sides of the building in bas relief. The building is now home to the Portsmouth Welcome Center.
First Amendment Sculpture
601 Court Street (on the steps of the Public Library)
Celebrating our most valuable rights of religion, press, speech, and assembly, this sculpture includes a desk modeled by beloved Portsmouth journalist Ida Kay Jordan and a manual typewriter as a symbol of a free press. Portsmouth sculptor Sue Landerman designed and built this installation with the support of the Portsmouth Museum and Fine Arts Commission and Support Portsmouth Public Art.
Two Kids on a Bench
221 High Street (Middle Street Mall)
Massed produced American bronze sculpture designed by artist Max Turner. This whimsical and very popular statue of a boy and girl sitting on a bench reading a story brings back childhood memories, which seems ideal for placement just outside the entrance to the Children’s Museum of Virginia.
Corner of London and Washington Streets (inside the Park)
Artist Craig Gray sculpted this sperm whale in 2009 and donated it through SPPA and Patrick and Melissa Small Family. In 2019, it was installed in its current location and added to Portsmouth’s Civic Art Collection.
Paradise Creek Nature Park – Victory Boulevard
The work was conceived and produced by the Peruvian artist Peruko Ccopacatty. The work was made in the 1980s with scrap metal taken from ships at Peck Iron & Metal which once occupied the property as a metal scrap yard. The artist walked the property and collected the items used to pay tribute to steel workers from local shipyards and beyond. The sculpture was installed at its current location in 2013 and was donated by David and Stanley Peck, former owners of the metal yard.
Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve – Twin Pines Road
Installed in 2021, the Herons are located in an area that sometimes fills with overflow from the creek. So like their inspiration, they are sometimes on dry ground and other times wading in a pool of water. They were fabricated by sculptor, Roger DiTarando in Connecticut.
Crawford Circle (coming soon to the front of Atlantic Union Bank Harbor Pavilion)
Artist Michiel Van der Sommen designed Jubilation specifically for Portsmouth’s Willett Hall, the city’s primary performing arts venue until it was demolished in 2020. Made from bronze and standing over six feet tall on a concrete pedestal, the statue now sits at the entrance to Portsmouth’s newest performing arts venue, the Atlantic Union Bank Harbor Pavilion. (photo courtesy of the artist).
Paradise Creek Nature Park – Victory Boulevard
Near the base of the pedestrian bridge you’ll come across the ‘One Flock’ sculpture made by Scottish artist, Rob Mulholland. The mirrored reflection on the human sillouttes encourages us to think about our symbiotic relationship with nature when seen with the flock of birds also occupying the setting.
Paradise Creek Nature Park – Victory Boulevard
Artist John Joyce wants you to look up in the trees where you might see birds, bats, or spiders inside frames hanging from the branches. The two mile perimeter hike around the park is a great way to find these unexpected treasures. The works were conceived by Joyce but many SPPA members contributed to the paining of these wooden creatures.
497 North Street
Purchased in Newport, RI at Newport Scrimshanders on Bowens Wharf, the mermaid was purchased specifically for the Mermaid’s Porch Bed & Breakfast (now a private home). She is crafted from wood and has a thin coat of plaster over her along with paint. She gets a new coat of polyurethane every year to stave off the effects of the weather. At Halloween, she is joined by a sea monster.
Under the Sea
Main Library – Court Street at King Street – inside
In the basement in the children’s reading room, the walls were painted by the Churchland Art students to recreate an undersea scene. Sponsored by Friends of the Portsmouth Public Library and SPPA.
Student Mural Project
Portsmouth Museum and Cultural Art Center Annex
A project of Churchland High School students commissioned in 2014.
Roger Brown’s Scenes from Portsmouth
Behind the bar at Roger Brown’s Restaurant and Sports Bar
Painted by artist Sam Welty and funded by Roger Brown’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, the mural features Football Hall of Fame’s Roger Brown in the center with a number of buildings and sites from his home town of Portsmouth, Virginia.
Elizabeth River Ferry Docks
Bangkok Garden Noodle House – Rear Hallway
Originally painted by famed maritime artist, Casey Holtzinger, sometime after 1964, Holtzinger is best known for highly detailed characters and majestic locomotives and ships. In 1990, artist Lee Erikson painstakingly restored the mural to its full glory. It features the ferry docks, along with the ferry called City of Portsmouth, departing the Norfolk dock sometime around 1950. Funded by Bangkok Garden Noodle House.
Siam Xaowarat Road, Bangkok 1920
Bangkok Garden Noodle House – Back wall by bar
Chundet Khwaneon completed this painting on June 20, 2020 to mark the opening of the restaurant. Project funded by Bangkok Garden Noodle House.
The Wings Project is happening all over the world. Portsmouth, through SPPA, is adding wings to the sides of buildings all over the city. It began in L.A. in 2012 when artist Collette Miller began placing angel wings around the city to “remind humanity that we are all angels on earth.” Since that time, the project has expanded beyond angel wings to include wings from the natural and manmade worlds. In Portsmouth, you’ll find angel wings, owl wings, hummingbird wings and even a bi-plane. The wings are on a human scale to allow people to interact with them through photography, creating their own artistic expression. Look for the wings in Olde Towne, Port Norfolk, Hoffler Creek, Churchland, and Midtown. Artists include Victoria Weiss of Virginia Beach and Sue Landerman of Portsmouth.
Toads on High Street began in 2011 when the non-profit, Support Portsmouth Public Art (SPPA), installed the bronze statue “I’ve Been Kissed” in front of the Virginia Children’s Museum. In honor of this sculpture created by artist Pokey Park, John Joyce wrote a children’s book, I’ve Been Kissed, and named the toad, Bufo. As you walk along High Street, look into the storefront windows and see how many toads you can spot. A brochure with clues for the kids is available at the Welcome Center or you can download the article here. The artists for this project include: Ellen Bible, Stephen Grunnet, Rebecca Myers, Dawn Richardson, Ben and Carolyn Riley. This is a project of SPPA.
Pick up brochures for Toads and Wings or a clue sheet for the scavenger hunt at the Portsmouth Welcome Center. You may also use the link and download the information directly to your phone.