When LOVE comes to town

Published 10:13 pm Monday, November 25, 2019

Suffolk received a little more love Saturday with the unveiling of the latest LOVEworks sign outside the Suffolk Center For Cultural Arts.

Students from four schools — Lakeland, Nansemond River and King’s Fork high schools, along with Nansemond-Suffolk Academy — designed and painted each of the six-foot-by-three-foot letters, working on them for four weeks.

Though the sign was brought inside after the ceremony with impending inclement weather on the horizon, it will be on display outside the cultural arts center as one of more than 190 such LOVEworks signs throughout Virginia. It is the first permanent installation of the LOVE letters in Suffolk.


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Susan Lawrence, the executive director for Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, noted that love is on the mind of everyone there. The Suffolk Center is celebrating its 14th season with the theme, “Discover What You Love at the Suffolk Center” as it pays homage to the 50th anniversary of the state slogan, “Virginia Is for Lovers.”

“Suffolk Center is all about love of arts and love of community,” Lawrence said. “So we thought, what better way to show this love than to have a permanent installation of the Virginia LOVE letters.”

Leiloni Wooley, an Art 3 student at King’s Fork, designed and worked on the letter “L” in the sign.

“My main inspiration for this piece was the contradiction between nature and factories,” Wooley said in the program for the LOVEworks sign unveiling.

Lakeland students Emily Owens and Jordan Clark designed the “O” in the sign, with students in Art 1, 2, 3 and 4 working on it. It includes Mr. Peanut, a peanut, cotton and two hot air balloons.

The design for the letter “V” came from Cross Waldo of Nansemond River High School, with Olivia Taylor, Parker Forman and the Art 3 class creating it. Waldo’s design features herons, fishing, peanuts, downtown, river life, sailing, crabbing, history and the beauty of the natural world in Suffolk.

Brianna Barnes, a student in NSA’s Upper School, designed the “E,” and students in its Advanced Art I and II classes created it.

“These new LOVE letters will only add to the charm and the unique character of our historic downtown,” said Mayor Linda T. Johnson.

D’Arcy Weiss, marketing manager for the Suffolk Center, worked with Virginia Tourism’s reimbursement program, which provided $1,500 to go toward materials to create the LOVE letters, and then it worked with Suffolk Public Schools and NSA to get their students involved. She noted that students were given the theme “Suffolk Loves the Arts,” and were to design “a thoughtful representation of love and the arts.”

Tourism Development Manager Theresa Earles is excited to have people share Suffolk’s LOVE letters on social media and promote the city in the process. Suffolk, like the state, is for lovers too, she said, but the city hasn’t had the sign to show it — until now.

“It reminds people all the wonderful things Suffolk has to offer,” Earles said. “We are arts, we are culture, but we’re also outdoor recreation, we’re peanuts, we are change and innovation, and we are history and museums.”

Dr. Joleen Neighbours, SPS fine arts facilitator, praised the work of the students in designing and creating the LOVE letters.

“How wonderful that we can say in the city of Suffolk that we reflect love,” Neighbours said, “and love now reflects us. This is the work of teenagers, ladies and gentlemen, young men and women who reflect all they see around them and what they want us to see.

“I hope that when people come to the center, and come to the city, they see, hear and feel a message of positivity, inclusivity, progressiveness and most importantly, love, as these students’ work will show.”