New Sculpture to Welcome Visitors to the Rich History of Lynnhaven Inlet

Thursday, April 20, 2017

​After an extensive national search, the Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation, along with members of the Virginia Beach Public Art Committee and the Bayfront Advisory Commission, are pleased to announce that Donald Lipski has been selected to create The Canoes, a signature sculpture that will serve as a gateway to the Bayfront community.  

The Canoes, to be located on the southern pedestrian overlook heading east on the new Lesner Bridge on Shore Drive, will usher visitors into the beauty and history of the Chesapeake Bay area.  The historic canoe as a medium for the sculpture creates an indelible tie to the waters surrounding it.  The Canoes draws on the Bay Area of the 1600s, when seine fishing was a profitable trade on the Lynnhaven shoreline.  As outlined in Virginia Beach, A Pictorial History by James M. Jordan, IV and Fredrick S. Jordan, at the time, the only entrance to the Lynnhaven River was by way of Little Creek, a tedious three-mile journey.  "Ye Dudlies," a plantation owned by Adam Keeling, was situated at the mouth of the Lynnhaven River.  Keeling and a group of others devised a solution.  The group dug a canoe-width trench across the half-mile-wide sandbar at the mouth of the Lynnhaven.  Soon after the passage was dug, a severe storm brought unusually high tides to the Chesapeake, rushing from the bay into the Lynnhaven River.  The force of the tides enlarged the ditch to what is now the Lynnhaven Inlet. Lipski describes, "The sculpture speaks to your history, but also to who you are today; to recreation and to the water.  People will see what they bring to the piece, and that is its strength."

The Canoes uses ten full-size aluminum canoes, stamped and punched with elaborate lace patterns, a nod to the decorative arts of the early settlers.   The canoes are joined at the center in a stylized sunburst, balanced atop a tall arch.  It will be lit in the evening by soft LED lights and features a seating area overlooking spectacular views of the bay.  The artist and his team are working closely with Cultural Affairs and Chris Wojtowicz, the Lesner Bridge's Public Works Project Manager, to ensure smooth coordination with Bridge construction.  The sculpture will not impede or impact the Bridge's construction schedule.

"We are honored to have a renowned artist with such extensive experience as Mr. Lipski to create our City's newest piece of public art," stated Emily Labows, Director of Cultural Affairs.  Donald Lipski began his notable career at New York Gallery Artists Space in 1978 with his early installation Gathering Dust, thousands of tiny sculptures pinned to a wall. The piece traveled to MOMA as part of the Project series. He won the first of three National Endowment for the Arts grants, followed by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1988, and many more national and museum awards in the decades to follow. Lipski's installations have spanned the country's museums and galleries.

The Canoes will continue the Public Art Virginia Beach Foundation's legacy to enhance our public spaces with extraordinary art and bring works to the community that are free and accessible to view and enjoy. "This sculpture on Shore Drive will be a welcoming symbol to our visitors that they are in a resort that supports aesthetic values and creates an impressive sense of place. The Canoes is fully funded by the citizens, who have come together under the Public Art Foundation to make a gift of this installation to the community and to the visitors of Virginia Beach" states Andrew Fine, president of the Pubic Art Virginia Beach Foundation. A fundraising campaign is underway to raise all of the necessary funds to commission and install the work.

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