Opening the doors of conversation: a reflection of rising tides and tensions in Tidewater

by | Jun 2, 2022 | What’s Happening

Exhibit: June 8–July 31, Leon Gallery at the Sandler Family Campus

As sea levels rise, so do tensions within the community. That is the idea that local artist Renée Calway is portraying in her exhibit, Rising Tides, Rising Tensions.

The exhibit, which is inspired by the work of the In[HEIR]itance Project in Hampton Roads, explores how as the tides rise, so do tensions relating to socio-economic inequalities that lead to disparity in neighborhoods most affected by coastal flooding.

The In[HEIR]itance Project is a national arts organization that recently wrote and produced a play called Exodus: Homecoming. Inspired by conversations with Hampton Roads residents and the biblical narrative of Exodus, the show reimagined the seven cities as an intergenerational family exploring the struggles of the area. It was performed in May at the Attucks Theatre as part of the Virginia Arts Festival’s 25th Anniversary Season. Calway’s exhibit accompanied the performances and was on display in the lobby during the run of the show.

As In[HEIR]itance Project moves on to its next community, Calway wants to keep the conversations surrounding their work in Hampton Roads alive.

Raised in Norfolk, Calway works to facilitate interactive healing arts experiences utilizing unconventional materials. She promotes ecological awareness with a special interest in intersectional studies of socio-politics and statistics.

“The rising waters affect us all, but Black and Brown communities are most threatened by flooding,” says Calway. “The exhibit seeks to inspire us to examine our racial history, evaluate discriminatory practices in our present, and work together to create a future in which all people are elevated to equal ground.”

The exhibit features a series of doors grouped together in a maze-like pattern, portraying the experiences of those in the region who have historically been privileged enough to use the front door, versus the experiences of those relegated to the back door. Calway plasters the doors with print media representing the “front door” and “back door” stories, and flooding is represented through a visual rising waterline, water-damaged articles, maps, and photos.

Created as a mobile exhibit, Rising Tides/Rising Tensions will travel throughout Tidewater over the next year, beginning at the Sandler Family Campus, June 8 through July 31.

For more information about Arts + Ideas programming, including the Leon Family Gallery, contact Hunter Thomas, director of Arts + Ideas at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, at

To learn more about Renée Calway, visit or @indigoskywarrior on Instagram.

Hunter Thomas