The Virginia MOCA: Art, Culture, and More

The Virginia MOCA - A Special Exhibition, Maya Lin's A Study of Water

Looking for an interesting art exhibit to see this summer? The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is the place to go!

This summer’s exhibition is Maya Lin’s – “A Study of Water.” This simple and striking collection captures the importance of environmental sustainability, and the impact pollution has had on our waterways and earth. Keep reading to learn more about this beautiful visual exhibition and the many other galleries and things to do at the Virginia MOCA!

About the Virginia MOCA

First, let’s take a look at some basics about the Virginia MOCA so you can get to know it a little better. The MOCA is a unique museum in that no one exhibition is permanent. It typically exhibits special collections for a few months before showcasing another one.

The museum has free admission to the general public, making it a great attraction if you’re looking for a fun way to spend your day without spending much money. The Virginia MOCA will exhibit Maya Lin’s “A Study of Water” between April 21 and September 4, 2022.

“A Study of Water” Exhibition

Maya Lin has an architectural and artistic background and is one of the most renowned artists. She is best known for the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, DC, and many of her other works, including sculptures, earthworks, and memorials, have been shown worldwide.

After you pass through the glass doors of the main gallery that holds Maya Lin’s, A Study of Water, you’ll feel a sense of calm and the growing scarceness that the room of art installations provides. Each sculptural piece signifies different waterways throughout the U.S. and the world. The installations are made from different materials that represent different bodies of water, icebergs, and the detriment that their melting poses, highlighting water’s necessity, accessibility, scarcity, and abundance.

@closedbycolby Maya Lin's the Study of Water Virginia MOCA
Photo by @closedbycolby

Let’s Take a Closer Look

The exhibition space has no one direction you should roam in, making it free-flowing and exciting to view at your own pace. One of the first pieces you happen upon is a wooden sculptural structure. This large sculpture shows the rippling of waves in an undulating motion, all comprised of different heights of the same type of wood.

Another noteworthy piece is the “Silver Chesapeake,” made of recycled silver. It captures the outline of the Chesapeake Bay, which is local to the Virginia and Maryland area and is the largest estuary in the United States. Lin chose silver because of the precious nature of the material and its refective, water-like qualities.

Photo by @closedbycolby

Another piece that features the Chesapeake Bay is a large installation of blue-turquoise glass marbles that takes up a large portion of the gallery. This art installation is called ‘Marble Chesapeake and Delaware Bay.’ The work was created from drawings based on NASA imagery. The combined waterways in such a large installation represent the massive totality of our nation’s ecosystem. It also brings attention to the beautiful forms of the bay and the reflective nature of the water.

Another important work to look at in the space is, ‘The Deglaciation of the Laurentide.’ The Laurentide piece represents the Laurentide Ice sheet which covered much of North America and used to be the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. Maya Lin depicts the topography of the now depleting ice sheets state. She constructed it with delicate materials, including paperboard and encaustic (beeswax and resin), further representing the fragility and fading nature.

The Study of Water Maya Lin - The Deglaciation of the Laurentide

Many other pieces of artwork showcase the beauty and importance of the waterways. You’ll see more works made of glass, metal pins, silver, and paper. One room shows a map of animals that have since been extinct due to climate change and how the environment has evolved. You will have to go in person to choose a favorite out of this specially curated collection.

@gulrock The Virginia MOCA Study of Water
Photo by @gulrock

But Wait, There’s More Art to See!

Though the Virginia MOCA holds well-known artists in its main exhibits, another awesome aspect of its galleries is that the museum often showcases many emerging artists and local artists. In a smaller gallery to the right side of the museum, the MOCA is currently showcasing other local artists’ work. This particular gallery showcases “Teaching Artists,” showing the paintings, sculptures, glasswork, and other art teachers have completed. This shows the everyday skills they may teach in their own classrooms, celebrating the teacher as the artist.

You can see the impact the surrounding bodies of water and the nature of Virginia Beach have had on many of these artists. The visual experience varies in many artwork subjects, but there is a common theme of waves, shells, surfboards, or nature. This gallery’s exhibition dates may vary in the summer, but typically this space holds local artists’ work, which you can often purchase and view.

On other pockets of wall space, you can find permanent or impermanent art installations. Some have a common thread of sustainability, tying into the museum’s current focus on nature, while other works are more general. A favorite is a Chihuly glass chandelier in an open event room just past the theater. You can also see a beautiful colorful mural outside the museum, which is great for your Instagram or Facebook photo ops!

@bigntoasty Virginia MOCA mural
Photo by @bigntoasty and mural painted by @maserart
@sallystrose Virginia MOCA
Photo and art by @sallystrose

MOCA Events Virginia Beach

The Virginia MOCA hosts many different events both within and outside the museum. The museum has a beautiful large open space once you enter with live trees inside; in this area, one can host special events such as weddings, corporate events, or other special occasion parties. There is also a small theatre in the museum where occasional dances and performances have taken place.

The Foster Beauty Fashion show is a new event that has taken place recently and has two shows a year, a fall and spring local fashion show. Be sure to also check out their events page for classes and special speakers. You can also visit their website for more information about an event you may want to host in the museum.

@emilyweddings and @taracardphoto Virginia MOCA wedding events
Wedding event planning by @emilyweddings and photo by @taracardphoto

Another large event you don’t want to miss out on is the Boardwalk Art Show, which the Virginia MOCA hosts once a year. The Virginia MOCA Boardwalk Art Show features almost 200 artists from across the country working in different mediums like painting, sculpture, jewelry, and more.

It’s one of the only outdoor art shows produced by an accredited museum and consistently has quality artists and pieces. Sunshine Artist Magazine has ranked this three-day festival as a Top 15 Fine Art Show of the Decade. This year the show is stated to take place on October 21st-23rd. You don’t want to miss out on this fun display of artworks and tons of fun on the beach boardwalk!

Virginia MOCA Art Classes

If you’re looking to get in touch with your creative side or an artist looking to learn a new medium, you are in luck at the Virginia MOCA! The Virginia MOCA staff offers a ton of studio programs and art classes. These classes are set into age groups, typically for adults, teens, and kids of different ages. Some upcoming classes include explorations in saltwater, embossing with nature, and cyanotypes: printing with light. There are lots of other courses to choose from that are updated routinely.

The museum also offers Studio Programs for children, teens, families, and adults. These programs are for different age groups, where creatives can explore various mediums and class options. Refer to the MOCA website or the Studio Programs page for more details.

@virginiamoca Art Classes at the Virginia MOCA
Photo by @virginiamoca

Explore the Virginia MOCA!

Whether you’re excited to visit the museum’s newest exhibit, gaze at local artists’ pieces, attend a class, or check out another event, the Virginia MOCA offers so much! We hope you learned more about the thriving art scene in Virginia Beach and are excited to be involved in the arts for years to come.

For more family-friendly things to do in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area, be sure to check out the VB Basics section on

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