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National art exhibit 'Unity Flag Project' in Virginia Beach

Virginia Wesleyan University is hosting a national traveling art exhibit that promotes unity.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris gave their messages of unity in Washington D.C. 

Virginia Wesleyan University's Neil Britton Art Gallery is promoting the same message in a national Unity Flag Project exhibit.

“I think a question that goes in so many minds right now is: what does it mean to be American?" Professor Craig Wansink said. "And maybe even more than that, a question that so many of us focus on is: what does it mean to be united?"

Forty flags from different states are hanging inside the Neil Britton Art Gallery. It’s an exhibition traveling across the nation.

Wansink is a religious professor and assistant director of the Robert Nusbaum Center. Wansink said the center created Virginia’s flag, titled "Beacon of Hope."

“The beacon itself, the lighthouse, is a characteristic of our location and the hearts on the right-hand side for the 'Virginia is for Lovers,'" explained Wansink. 

Neil Britton art gallery curator, John Rudel, said the flags promote “Purple Empathy” when blue (Democrats) and red (Republicans) come together.

"We feel like the exhibition has a lot of value in promoting civil discourse and unity on this date of the 2021 Presidential inauguration," Rudel said. 

Due to COVID-19, the gallery is only physically open to the university community. To share with other people, curators put together a virtual showing.

“Which is 3D-VR that you can move through to experience the artwork, and there’s also a website. The unityflagproject.com that also does a wonderful job articulating the message," said Rudel.

Virginia Wesleyan University staff provided that the project was created at Belmont University.   

"The Unity Flag Project was initiated in anticipation of the final presidential debate on October 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville. The idea was launched by Dr. Meaghan Brady Nelson, Assistant Professor of Art Education and Program Director of Fine Arts at Belmont, who took the blue and red polarization of the current political climate and used the visual arts to bring them together to foster "purple empathy."

The project was designed to encourage civil discourse, build empathy, and bridge political divides through the visual arts, by inviting artists from across the country to create representations of the U.S. flag that expressed empathy for bipartisanship."

To see the Virginia Wesleyan University's virtual tour of the exhibition, click here

The Unity Flag Project is on display until March 19. Rudel said the university is also accepting other painting submissions for their digital gallery.