Wander through the arts and culture district by the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and discover a unique community collaboration between Virginia Beach Middle School (VBMS) and the ViBe Creative District. This service-oriented pop-up public art installation—featuring bird houses representing local businesses—was officially unveiled during the community’s First Friday event June 1 in the 18th Street Parklet.
The temporary installation, designed and built by VBMS National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) students, were the result of students being challenged to look at their bird house as a symbol of community and asked to explore how public art impacts neighborhood development, community building, authenticity and creative enterprise.
“This project allowed students to broaden their sense of community and how they define service,” said Angelyn Nichols, teacher at VBMS and project coordinator. “They were able to examine how to show individuality and uniqueness while still being a member of the community.”
The students were asked to paint, decorate and embellish wooden bird houses to represent either a local business, creative industry or public artwork found in the district.
ViBe’s executive director, Kate Pittman, met with the NJHS students before beginning the project to explain the role that public art is fulfilling in the Virginia Beach community. “We talked about small businesses and how they directly relate to their neighborhood and city,” said Pittman. “We also talked about all the new art that was happening.”
During the initial meeting Pittman took the students on a walking field trip of the ViBe where they saw new community artwork and met local business owners to get a sense of the neighborhood their bird houses are representing.
“My favorite part about this project is how the bird houses are meant to represent different personalities in a community,” said Cadence Ungs, eighth-grade student at VBMS. “Close up they each have their own unique style and look, but far away they look cohesive and a part of one another.”
Under the guidance of Nichols and Pittman, more than 50 students spent two weeks designing and their bird houses.
Aside from adding a splash of whimsy and color to the streetscape, the exhibition is part of a larger effort to bring the surrounding community together – for Ungs, it changed how she defines community.
“This project helped me understand the meaning of community. Before, community meant a neighborhood or somewhere people lived together. Now I understand being in a community is much more. Being in a community means entrustment, diligence, honesty and integrity.”
The student’s installation is intended to remain in place for up to three months. For more information about community engagement and partnerships, contact the school division’s Office of Community Engagement at 757-263-1936.