New name, same mission

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2011

People visiting the Suffolk Museum for the first time might think they’ll find Nansemond Indian artifacts, Civil War objects left behind in Riddick’s Folly after the departure of Union soldiers and scorched pieces of the area’s first courthouse, which was destroyed by fire during the Revolutionary War.

But what they actually will find, typically, is work produced by area artists, ranging from students to senior citizens. From ink drawings to elaborate sculptures and from photographs to pastel paintings, the Suffolk Museum has displayed it all.

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The Suffolk Museum, however, is no more. City officials recently changed its name to the Suffolk Art Gallery to better reflect its use.

“We’re about to move forward with the actual changing of things on the website and changing the signage at the museum,” said Lakita Frazier, director of Suffolk Parks and Recreation. “Officially, legally, it is done. The process is going to be educating the community.”

The venue came into existence in 1985, when the city announced it would move the Morgan Memorial Library from the Bosley Avenue building to a new location on East Washington Street. The board of directors of the Suffolk Art League, which had been operating in the city for about eight years without an office for much of that time, approached the city about creating a museum from the old library building.

Though the city owns the building, the art league remains a supporting organization, maintaining its office there, providing volunteers for events and filling the gallery with exhibits throughout the year.

“It’s just so wonderful to have a central location that we can base all of our programs out of,” said Linda Bunch, executive director of the art league.

At any given time, visitors to the building can find works from regional artists of all persuasions hanging on the walls and perched on pedestals throughout the building. It also plays host to numerous art classes and workshops for preschoolers through adults.

But, city officials noticed last year, it is not a museum in the traditional sense.

“Our facility has changed more into a gallery that is devoted to the display of works of art,” Frazier said. “We just wanted to have this name change represent what that building truly is.”

The art gallery is located at 118 Bosley Ave., west of the downtown core just off West Washington Street. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 514-7284.