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“Walking Houses” a way to get Norfolk excited about public art

Street Art

They seem to appear out of nowhere.

The whimsical chalk sketches pressed firmly into the concrete sidewalks in downtown Norfolk are familiar – a slice of nostalgia for anyone who played with chalk as a child in front of the family home.

But this isn’t the work of a child. Each drawing is strategic and represents the thoughts of an adult fully aware of societal concerns like cancer, rising sea levels and an uncertain future.

For three years, Christopher Revels, 32, has created what he calls “Walking Houses,” tiny bungalow structures he draws with chalk on the sidewalk, complete with windows, a smoking chimney and stick-figure legs. Where the houses are traveling is unknown, even to the artist. What is certain, he said, is that the art is his attempt to condition the public to not only accept public art, but get excited about it.

“It’s a vehicle for an idea to spread,” Revels said. “You can cover them in pink and they’ll be for breast cancer. It’s whatever you want to call it.”

The San Diego native said he is receiving positive feedback on the houses, mainly from joggers who notice the art and offer suggestions like a certain kind of shutter on one of his houses, he said. Theories even began to circulate about what the artwork means, including the rumor that the houses were his way to get people out of their homes.

When he ventures out to create the houses, Revels leaves his Norfolk home between 4 and 5 a.m. with a pocket full of chalk and ambitions for a strong cup of coffee. Working under cloak of darkness is the surest way for him to create uninterrupted or to avoid impeding anyone else walking somewhere.

“A house is a very good vehicle to use when you’re trying to get a message across to everybody,” Revels said. “A home is something any human – whether you live in a hut in Africa or Brazil – can relate to. A home is a comfortable place. That’s where you are.”

Stephanie Arnold, 757-446-2027, stephanie.arnold@pilotonline.com

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