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Norfolk, Virginia

Cementiscope

A cement mixer-turned-kaleidoscope in downtown Norfolk offers different views of the city. 

Kaleidoscopes use angled mirrors to create changing, symmetrical patterns based on whatever the viewer has it aimed at. They’re usually toys, and they’re definitely not often housed in cement mixers. Unless you happen to be in Norfolk, Virginia. 

The Cementiscope, situated at the corner of Granby Street and Olney Road, is a black-and-white striped concrete drum that may look rather unremarkable to those driving by, but holds a marvelous secret for anyone who stops to look inside. As the name would suggest, it is a large kaleidoscope made from a fabricated cement mixer. 

The kaleidoscope weighs 3,000 pounds and features a hand-turned crank that rotates the cylinder using rubber wheels inside the cask. LED lights inside enhance spinning views of geometric shapes to people on either side of the drum. Visitors can aim the scope at a billboard built for the project, clouds, the cityscape, friends. The possibilities are as almost as limitless as the alternating views. 

Cementiscope is the inaugural public art piece for the NEON (New Energy of Norfolk) Arts District. It was created by Glassitorium, a group of artists who worked together at the Chrysler Museum of Art. Their goal was to design a piece that would honor all the construction in the up-and-coming area. In 2008, Norfolk passed a law to set aside one percent of all capital improvement projects for public art projects, and every year the city sends out about eight open calls for artists to come work on pieces for its burgeoning arts district.