When Adrianne Ryder-Cook Joseph first came to Gloucester, Virginia, she was awestruck by the rural county’s natural environment – its riverscape and landscapes.
“It’s all just breathtaking,” she said.
Yet despite the county’s inspiring beauty, few cultural offerings existed at that time in Gloucester. To find art festivals, symphonies, art galleries, murals or art museums, residents had to travel to other communites such as Richmond or Norfolk. But it was hard to find it right at home in this community so rich with inspiration.
Enter the Cook Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, privately funded organization founded in 1999, with a mission to nurture and sponsor the arts in Gloucester, Virginia. In its first two decades the philanthropic, community-oriented, foundation has enabled the fruition of artistic dreams of myriad creative individuals and groups.
It has brought an annual outdoor Virginia Symphony performance, the Beehive Project, Main Street Flower Baskets, Chalkfest, original theatre productions, scholarships and many other initiatives to enrich, benefit and diversify the art experience for everyone in the community.
In addition, the foundation has gifted three murals located in the Courthouse area that each celebrate Gloucester’s shared culture and heritage.
The Foundation has invested in the restoration of notable buildings in the community. Architecture is art; and the living space nourishes creativity and a sense of well-being.
It’s helped bring artists to Gloucester through support of the Artists in Residency Program launched by Arts on Main in 2019.
Acclaimed artists visit the community to share their expertise while creating works of art. By making Gloucester an art-friendly place, the Cook Foundation showcases our community as an interesting place to live – to the artists, to art collectors, and to businesses that appreciate a quality of life that cannot be found elsewhere.
Perhaps most notably, working in partnership with Arts on Main, Stewart Gallery and many volunteers, the Foundation created the Gloucester Arts Festival, a month-long celebration held each year.
The Cook Foundation is also building an art collection for the benefit of the community and has recently purchased a Seward Johnson sculpture which is on permanent display on Main Street.
All combined, the Cook Foundation’s efforts, with its partnerships with the community and volunteers, has changed the game for Gloucester and in time, Adrianne said, will help “put Gloucester ‘on the map’ as an art-loving community.”