Peninsula Fine Arts Center
Coordinates: The Peninsula Fine Arts Center (Pfac) is an art center located in Newport News, Virginia and is associated with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It is located at 101 Museum Drive on the grounds of the park surrounding the Mariners' Museum and is accredited with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). It was formed in 1962 as the Peninsula Arts Association (PAA) by a group of Hampton Roads art supporters. The first official exhibit, staged in 1962, was a visit from a Virginia Museum Artmobile. It has moved and grown in size over the course of its 50 years to become one of the premier arts advocates in the area. It's one of only 20 non-collecting art centers accredited by the AAM.
In addition to changing gallery space, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center maintains a permanent "Hands On For Kids" gallery designed for children and families to interact in what the Center describes as "a fun, educational environment that encourages participation with art materials and concepts."
Early Years (1962-1980)
The PAA was originally housed in downtown Newport News in the former John W. Daniel School Building. The first official exhibit was staged in 1962. Before having venues, founders shared works of art hanging from clothes lines in their backyards.
In 1964, PAA was moved onto the campus of Christopher Newport College before moving again to Hilton Village and later, Newmarket South Shopping Center. Major exhibitions that were too large for these venues were held in the Mariners’ Museum.
The PAA received a significant gift in 1975 that would prove to shape its future and help it establish independence when Newport News Shipbuilding donated its former hydraulics testing laboratory. The lab was located on two acres of land in Mariners’ Museum Park across from the Mariners’ Museum. Following an intense renovation financed by community supporters, the PAA opened its new doors on November 5, 1978.
Further remodeling provided studios upstairs for the use of the Art Magnet Program of the Newport News Public School System. The program allowed talented students an opportunity to develop their artistic potential. This educational model would develop into workshops for students that include informative sessions and portfolio reviews that are still in place today.
Expansion, Affiliation and Accreditation (1981-1993)
In 1983, the PAA officially became The Peninsula Fine Arts Center and was named an Affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. As the Center started receiving more attention, David L. Peebles was named Chairman of the Capital Campaign in 1985 to raise $1.5 million for a new wing for Pfac. With the successful commitment of the private and public sector, the ground-breaking ceremony was held March 14, 1988. Award-winning Williamsburg, VA architect Carlton Abbott designed the new addition.
The expansion and renovation provided an addition to triple exhibition space and to develop a suitable entry area, classrooms, workshop and art handling areas with provision for security, barrier-free accessibility and state-of-the-art temperature, humidity and ventilation systems. Usable floor space increased from 4,000 square feet to over 15,000 square feet with three galleries, a hallway gallery, video gallery, four art classrooms and a meeting room.
The official Grand Opening celebration of the Fine Arts Center was held on the weekend of April 30, 1989. The reception was marked by the opening of an exhibition called "TRIBUTARY: 3,000 Years In the Course of Art," an impressive display at the new facility that would come to hold 15-20 exhibitions a year. In total, Pfac has featured nearly 500 exhibitions in its history, including annual juried shows, holiday invitationals, high school and college competitions, as well as curated shows.
By 1992, as the Center celebrated its 30th Anniversary, the museum had grown into one of the most influential contemporary art organizations in Virginia. An exclusively 3-Dimensional exhibition in 1990 was praised as the most important contemporary art exhibit in the region in nearly a decade by local art critics.
In 1993, the Center earned accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, an effort that took nearly two years of self-evaluation and an in-depth report that was analyzed for months by the AAM.
The Center celebrated its semicentennial in 2012 with sevweral exhibitions. They included a national exhibit, "Art and the Animal," and a celebration of regional artists who have either taught or displayed work in other exhibitions at Pfac called "The Artists: Who We Are Past and Present." The latter was a photography exhibit illustrating the history of the Center and Virginia Peninsula with a juried photo exhibition. In the summer, Pfac held its nationally-recognized "Biennial" exhibition. The anniversary year culminated with the exhibition "50 Great American Artists" (curated by Michael Preble).