October 13, 2023
Located near the water in Newport News, Virginia, CHP’s Warwick Apartments stands as a tribute to the city’s rich history. This historic building, originally constructed in 1883, has served the community in many ways throughout its 140-year history. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, Warwick Apartments now provides permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals. However, what truly makes this building stand out is “The Listener” mural on the exterior of the building, celebrating the Warwick’s history and the vibrant community it serves.
“The Listener” mural, a recent addition to the building at Warwick Apartments, is a remarkable work of art that captures the essence of this storied building. The mural, completed in just two and a half weeks, was created by artist Nico Cathcart as part of the Newport News Street Museum project. The mural serves as a visual narrative, inviting viewers to explore the Warwick’s past and appreciate the diversity of its history.
At the heart of “The Listener” is a man who represents an attentive community member. Affectionately known by the residents as “Mr. Warwick,” he wears a hat adorned with a “press ticket,” symbolizing the building’s history as a newspaper office and radio station. On his lapel sits a swan brooch, a nod to the Warwick name and family crest. In his hand, he holds a pencil bearing the call letters of the radio station that once operated within the Warwick’s walls.
The corners of the mural feature a selection of symbols that represent the various facets of the Warwick’s past. An antique mailbox serves as a reminder of the building’s role as a post office, while an antique safe pays homage to its banking history. A ship symbolizes both the building’s involvement in prohibition-era activities and Newport News’ maritime heritage. An antique barber’s chair represents the days when the Warwick Apartments housed a barber shop, and Tudor Rose roundels around the perimeter of the painting were taken from the hotel’s ceiling design, adding a touch of elegance to the mural.
Residents at Warwick Apartments have wholeheartedly embraced the mural, expressing their love and appreciation for it. Nona Hipp, Senior Regional Manager for the Tidewater area, recalled, “As she worked on the painting, Nico would take time to sit and talk with residents and learn about their histories. The residents loved her and were proud of her work. They thought the mural was beautiful and would talk about how nice Nico is.”
Due to its central location within the city, the mural at Warwick Apartments serves as a piece of public art that benefits not only the property but also the surrounding area. The proximity to city offices, such as the courthouse and city inspector’s building, ensures that many individuals interact with the mural daily. It adds an element of cultural significance to the area and fosters a sense of pride in the community’s history. (Learn about another art initiative at a CHP apartment community in Baltimore.)
While there are no immediate plans for additional art installations at Warwick Apartments, the success of “The Listener” mural has opened up possibilities for future initiatives that celebrate the building’s rich history and the diverse community it houses. “I think the mural really fits with CHP’s mission and the diversity we strive for in our communities,” said Hipp. “I am proud to have been part of this project and hope we can have murals painted at more CHP properties.”