Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center: Anderson Johnson Gallery

Museum Spotlight: Downing-Gross Cultural Art Center

One of the perks of working at The Vacation Channel is the opportunity to learn about what Coastal Virginia has to offer. Being natives ourselves, we don’t always get to experience what’s in our very own backyard.



On a recent shoot for the Newport News Tourism, we discovered the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. In addition to creating gallery space for local artists and a theater for performing artists, it is the home of the Anderson Johnson Gallery.


This space is devoted to the African-American visionary folk artist, Elder Anderson Johnson, who decorated his home/chapel inside and out with a paintings and found-object sculpture. He was “discovered” by the mainstream art world in the 1990s, and his “big eye” paintings were widely acclaimed.


The city of Newport News purchased his home in 1987 and was able to preserve many of his murals and significant works. These pieces (up to 600 works of art and architectural salvage) have since been installed inside the gallery. The result transports viewers to a re-creation of Johnson’s home, and gives you a peek into his whimsical world.



Tags hanging from the ceiling inspire “peace,” “love,” and “joy,” and he was said to frequently offer them to guests in his home. A re-creation of his bedroom gives you a feel for Johnson’s artistic process, and the gallery is scattered with church pews taken from Johnson’s home, as well as a collection of his personal musical instruments.



The Downing-Gross Cultural Art Center has done a splendid job preserving Johnson’s work so that future generations can share in the joy and mystery of his prolific body of work. Check out our video showcasing a feature of the gallery:



Admission is free and open to the public.

M-F  10:00am – 6:00pm
SA    10:00am – 4:00pm
Closed Sunday

Martin Walsh is an owner of The Vacation Channel, and filmmaker with over a decade of experience making engaging travel content. He’s on a mission to make sure your family has fun this year with a trip to Coastal Virginia. If you would like a local’s opinion, you can always send him a question via email. Now get outside and go have an adventure!

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