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  • Writer's picturePenny Neef

Virginia Arts Festival’s Commitment to Education

Updated: May 1, 2023

Words by Penny Neef. Images courtesy of the Virginia Arts Festival.

The mission of the Virginia Arts Festival is clear:

“To bring world-class performing arts to our citizens and visitors, impact the lives of students through outstanding educational programs, commission new works of national and international significance, and make a tangible difference in Hampton Roads through regional partnerships and cultural tourism.”

The “outstanding educational programs” of the VAF may sometimes be overlooked by the thousands of happy patrons of the performing arts who attend the wide variety of events each year. The performances take place throughout Hampton Roads, in big and small venues, indoors and out. They range from the already sold-out performances of illusionist Scot Silven to free concerts by pianists Nick Luby and Susan Zhang, who are taking their piano to locations all over Hampton Roads on a classy, converted box truck, to the one and only Smokey Robinson appearing at Chrysler Hall on May 21. For a complete schedule of outstanding performances, click here –

What many people do not know, unless you are a student of the arts in Hampton Roads, is that VAF takes the “outstanding educational programs” piece of their mission statement very seriously. Thousands of students are impacted by VAF educational outreach every year. I attended a student matinee performance of the Virginia International Tattoo this year. Thousands of students from across our area were invited to Scope Arena to watch this spectacular show.

Images by David Polston.

Many of the performing artists arrive in Norfolk a week or so before their shows, so that they have the opportunity to go out to the schools and teach master classes, give tutorials to area instrumental students, or offer dance and theater workshops.

Members of the world-famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from New York City have been here all week. Founded in 1958 by dancer Alvin Ailey and other young, Black modern dancers, the Alvin Ailey company is one of the premiere dance companies in the United States. Educational outreach is also one of the key components of their mission.

Former Ailey company member, Nasha Thomas, conducted community workshops earlier this week for all ages in the Perry Pavilion in Norfolk. Thomas taught excerpts from one of Ailey’s most famous works, “Revelations”, to anyone who registered for this event.

Beginning Tuesday through Sunday, April 30, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater will be performing as part of Virginia Arts Festival. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here!

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