Escape Quarantine Safely with the Newport News Art & Sculpture Driving Tour
Is the quarantine driving you absolutely crazy yet? Although I'm used to working from home, I have to admit that I'm beginning to get a bit antsy, too. The weather outside has been gloomy and gross, which makes everything feel dreary and prison-like (dramatic, but true). I was excited to escape and visit Kiptopeke State Park last weekend until the morning came cold and overcast, and we decided against an outdoor trip. For all our sakes, I hope that the sun comes back soon!
In the meantime, if you're looking for things to do in Hampton Roads during quarantine, I have an excellent option for you! Thankfully, there are a few activities in the Hampton Roads area that can be freely enjoyed despite yucky weather and viruses. Today, I want to tell you about a beautiful driving tour in Newport News, Virginia, that's a great way to get out of the house and explore!
The Newport News Art & Sculpture Tour offers a fantastic look at 32 of the city's most celebrated works of outdoor art. Some are beautiful tributes to fallen heroes, while others embrace classic art styles and commemorate historic moments from the city. The variety is lovely, and you're free to pick and choose the ones that interest you or do the whole thing! Plus, the entire tour is free and can be done on your personal schedule.
For a detailed map of the tour with sculpture details, visit the Driving Tours page on the Newport News Tourism website. You can download the PDF or request a hard copy.
The tour extends from the Newport News Airport all the way down by the Monitor Merrimac Bridge. If you simply drive by each sculpture, it will only take you a couple of hours. However, if you'd like to get out and explore them all in more detail, you can plan for more like three to four hours due to walking and parking.
Since listing every stop on the tour would be a bit exhaustive, and I want to keep it fun for you to explore, I'm going to highlight my top 15 sculptures to give you a taste of what you'll see. Hopefully, it's enough to stimulate your sense of adventure and encourage you to check them all out yourself this weekend! It's a great way to cure your quarantine boredom for a few hours!
My first four favorite sculptures all come from the same area of the map. Tucked away in a little neighborhood near Styron Square, the streets around these sculptures all bear the names of famous authors! The mix of literary references, private parks, and lovely sculptures put this whole area high on my list of neighborhoods to visit again.
Natural is the centerpiece of a quiet roundabout. This centaur statue is the work of Masaru Bando who wanted to emphasize how the "power of nature intertwines with the essence of humanity." The rugged chiseling of the sculpture does indeed give the feeling that it was carved from the elements of nature.
This abstract sculpture was inspired by the mythological Melpomene, who was the muse of tragedy. Romolo Del Deo created this beautiful piece to be heroic yet heartbreaking, and the statue certainly portrays that tragedy in its fragmented, yet beautiful shape. Despite having only one wing, no head, and no arms, the broken beauty of the full figure is still clear.
3. Il Segreto
Some people can't be trusted with secrets... that's the theme of Emanuele De Reggi's sculpture, Il Segreto. The statue located at the intersection of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain Avenues depicts a figure holding a fish behind his back. The fish represents the truth that people can't face or can't keep quiet.
4. Lenape Gate
The final sculpture in this neighborhood is Lenape Gate, a stone arch designed by Harry Gordon. This particular piece stands in one of the neighborhood's small private parks. The gate features contrasting elements of polished stone and rough edges, as well as simple patterns. One one side, the beams are smooth, with only a few artistic holes bored through the rock. On the other side, the columns have rows of lines carved into them. According to Gordon, he wanted to "imbue them with an expression of dignity and grandeur" without taking too far away from their natural state.
Right near Newport News' City Center, you'll find a statue that's befitting of this business area: two hands preparing to shake on an agreement. It's simple, yet the detail on the hands is pretty cool, and I like the concept for the area it's in.
Another work by Emanuele De Reggi, Francesco, depicts Francis of Assisi, an Italian Catholic friar, as a child. Francesco is smiling up at the sky and enjoying nature as two birds rest on his hands. You'll find this sculpture peacefully tucked away in a small garden on the Christopher Newport University lawn.
My next four favorites are all found around the Mariner's Museum Park. The museum's founders, Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, had a vision for these grounds to be a sculpture park. As a result, several lovely pieces, including a few of Anna Huntington's own sculptures, can be found on the park's grounds.
7. Leifr Eiriksson, Son of Iceland
At the entrance to the Mariner's Museum Park stands a noble statue of Leifr Eiriksson, ready for battle. The imposing figure is fully dressed in armor with a battle-ax in one hand, a decorated cross in the other, and his cape flowing behind him. It's such a heroic picture, and I love the uniqueness of the sculpture style for this area. According to the NN Tourism Center, this piece was done by Alexander Stirling Calder, who modeled it after an honorary statue the United States sent to Iceland in 1930.
Peacefully perched in Kettle Pond on the outskirts of the Mariner's Museum Park, the elegant white figure of Selene faces toward the James River. Named after the Greek goddess of the moon, this lovely statue depicts a barefooted woman with a pensive expression on her face. The pond's background of vibrant trees and blue water creates a pleasant atmosphere for her dreaming. In the lovely words of the artist, Maria Gamundi, "She invites you to slow down and quietly contemplate and absorb this beautiful paradise where she sits on the water, reflecting her image in Kettle Pond, looking out to the James River."
9. Conquering the Wild
One of Anna Hyatt Huntington's pieces, Conquering the Wild is an epic sculpture of a man trying to calm a rearing horse. At each corner of the sculpture's pedestal sits a life-size carving of a man, representing science, art, learning, and industry. The inscription on the pedestal dedicates this incredible piece to Collis Potter Huntington, the founder of the Newport News Shipyard, for helping establish the Mariner's Musem and Park.
10. Lion's Bridge
The final piece at the Mariner's Museum Park is the Lion's Bridge, another gorgeous creation of Anna Huntington. On either side of the dam built to create Lake Maury, a set of regal stone lions stand guard over the bridge. Personally, their style is very reminiscent of the kinds of lion carvings you'll see in Europe, which made them all the more intriguing to me. The lions are particularly lovely with their silhouettes against the water of the James River.
A few minutes away from the Mariner's Museum, you'll find Emanuele De Reggi's third and final piece on this driving tour: Carambola. This whimsical sculpture depicts balance and being ready with a figure performing a one-handed handstand on a giant sphere. The figure arcs gracefully over the ball in the precarious position showing balance, yet prepared for the expected fall.
The next two sculptures are located on the grounds of the Virginia War Museum.
12. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The tall obelisk of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands proudly amid the gardens of the Virginia War Museum, honoring those who served. Behind the monument, a burning pillar "symbolizes hope for the return of the missing and a wish of peace for those who died," according to the brochure. The surrounding plaza also features retired artillery dedicated to lost soldiers.
13. Holocaust Memorial--"The Hope"
Just across the path from the Vietnam Veterans Memorials is another solemn tribute: The Holocaust Memorial. This sculpture by Sarah Aldouby, named The Hope, is both lovely yet tragic. It features three simply carved figures, a man, woman, and child, huddled close together and looking toward the heavens. The piece is a memorial to all Jewish Holocaust victims and a tribute to the survivors.
The final pieces on my top 15 list are down by the shipyard. There's a cluster of about 6 of them in this area, but two of them particularly stuck out to me.
14. Victory Arch
At the entrance to Victory Landing Park, Newport News has its own miniature Arc de Triomphe. In 1919, the original version of this archway welcomed home the troops who served in the Great War. However, in 1962, this elegant, permanent arch replaced the original one, and an eternal flame was added in 1969. Now, the Victory Arch is a memorial to and reminder of all of the American soldiers who have served in wartimes.
15. Build a Dream
The final sculpture on my list is Build a Dream by Richard Hunt. This playful statue is formed from stainless steel with a stepped base that rises into more intricate and complex forms. It's meant to embody the concept of building dreams off of a firm foundation, which encapsulates the motivation behind the neighborhood's revitalization project. As far as I can tell, Richard Hunt never specified an exact form for the statue, but, personally, my imagination sees a dragon.
Thanks for taking the time to check out these incredible outdoor artworks in Newport News! I hope you'll make a point soon to go check them all out and appreciate them for yourself. We have some fantastic artists in our community, and their work definitely deserves more attention.
If you enjoyed this post, please give it a heart; and if you think it's a great way to escape quarantine this weekend, please share it with your friends! Social distancing doesn't mean we have to forget about our wonderful Hampton Roads community!
For more local adventures like this, please check out the Exploring Virginia page.
Wishing you all good health and safe travels!