In 2016, the small, riverside beach hamlet Town of Colonial Beach, Virginia (CBVA), located on Virginia’s Norther Neck peninsula, was set on revitalizing and awakening its sleepy town, but didn’t want to lose the charm and quaintness of its historic, maritime past. So the “Playground of the Potomac”, as it was formerly known, embraced it.
Enter internationally known street art painter and fine artist Melanie Stimmell. She and husband Remco Alexander Van Latum had earned worldwide recognition as the force behind We Talk Chalk, creators of 3D street art painting, sidewalk art and chalk art (including a Mother’s Day project for Macy’s New York City headquarters.) CBVA had learned about the duo’s work and invited them to create murals on bland, vacant buildings around town, bringing them to life.
The result? Seven wall murals that depict CBVA’s colorful maritime past as a waterfront resort destination, most frequently accessed by steam ships and paddle wheelers. The murals include a Stay & Play theme on Town Hall, Beachcombers on the back of a real estate office and a Steamboat mural on a condo building, as well as additional murals on both sides of the Town’s bathhouse, on a packing company and a final one on a local diner at the entrance to the peninsula.
Additional murals soon popped up around Town, as residents and business owners joined in on the fun, commissioning their own street art wall murals, helping to beautify the Town. At last count, there were 12 painted murals, as well as street art sculptures and art installation bicycles from Colonial Beach Artists Guild, themed after the building/business in front of which they are displayed.
“Postcard vintage was the inspiration for the murals,” explained Stimmell. “We wanted to remain true to the historic beach community and have the murals flow through the village. People loved seeing something more than a boring wall and were appreciative that we captured the bygone era that defines the town.”
Melanie worked on the project with assistant Lyndsey Ann Morel and had help from local artists Kelly Swain and Phil McKinney. The wall murals were so well received that they revealed a vacant niche, one that Stimmell filled by opening a studio, Montross Mural Studio, nearby, to offer weeklong mural workshops.
“We fell in love with Colonial Beach, its residents and the surrounding area,” says Stimmell. “More and more people were asking about the murals. When we offered the workshop, we had participants from not only the region, but as far away as Arizona and Guatemala!”
How many murals can you find? Use our map to take a self-guided walking tour or rent a golf cart and find your favorite! You can also take a virtual tour from our home page: www.visitcbva.com.