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Colonial Virginian culture, language, and style is reenacted in Williamsburg.

The Culture of Virginia refers to the distinct human activities and values that take place in, or originate from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia's historic culture was popularized and spread across America and the South by Washington, Jefferson, and Lee, and their homes represent Virginia as the birthplace of America and of the South.[1] Modern Virginia culture has many heritages, and is largely part of the culture of the Southern United States.[2]


Regional aspects

Map of nine Virginia cultural regions

The Smithsonian Institution divides Virginia into nine cultural regions.[3]


Virginia furniture and architecture are typical of American colonial architecture. Thomas Jefferson and many of the state's early leaders favored the Neoclassical architecture style, leading to its use for important state buildings. The Pennsylvania Dutch and their style can also be found in parts of the state.[4]


English was passed as the commonwealth's official language by statutes in 1981 and again in 1996, though the status is not mandated by the Constitution of Virginia.[5] English is the only language spoken by 6,245,517 (86.7%) Virginians, though it is spoken very well by an additional 570,638 (7.9%) for a total of 94.6% of the Commonwealth which speaks English. Spanish has the most speakers of other languages, with 424,381 (5.9%). 226,911 (3.2%) speak Asian and Pacific Islander languages, including Vietnamese and Filipino.[6]

The Piedmont region is one of the most famous for its dialect's strong influence on Southern American English. Various accents are also present including the Tidewater accent and the anachronistic Elizabethan of Tangier Island, as well as a more homogenized American English in urban areas with a great deal of transplants.[7][8]


The vineyard at Thomas Jefferson's Montecello home did not produce wine until the late 20th century.

Besides the general cuisine of the Southern United States, Virginia maintains its own particular traditions. Smithfield ham, sometimes called Virginia ham, is a type of country ham which is protected by state law, and can only be produced in the town of Smithfield.[9]

Virginia wine is made in many parts of the state.[10] As of 2007, the state has 2,400 bearing acres, an increase of 14% over the prior year. 5,600 tons were harvested in 2007, a 10% decline from 2006, the majority of which was Vinifera. The entire year's crop was valued at $7,800,000. The state ranks eighth in the nation for both bearing acreage and grape production.[11] There are six subregions in Virginia: Monticello AVA, North Fork of Roanoke AVA, Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace AVA, Rocky Knob AVA, Shenandoah Valley AVA, Virginia's Eastern Shore AVA.

Fine arts

The Science Museum of Virginia is one of the popular museums in Richmond, Virginia.

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities works to improve commonwealth's civic, cultural, and intellectual life.[12] The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a state-funded museum with the largest collection of Fabergé eggs outside of Russia.[13] The Chrysler Museum of Art is home to many pieces, stemming from the Chrysler family collection, including the final sculpture of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.[14] Other museums include the popular Science Museum of Virginia, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum, the Frontier Culture Museum, and the Mariners' Museum.[15] Besides these sites, many open air museums and battlefields are located in the state, such as Colonial Williamsburg, Richmond National Battlefield, and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.[16]

Music and performance art

The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, opened in 1933.

Virginia has launched many award-winning traditional music artists as well as internationally successful popular music acts. Ralph Stanley, Patsy Cline, The Statler Brothers and The Carter Family are award winning Bluegrass and Country music musicians from Virginia, and Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey were both from Newport News. Hip hop and Rhythm and blues acts like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, The Neptunes, Chris Brown, and Clipse hail from the commonwealth. The Neptunes produced 43% of all songs on American radio in 2003.[17] Singer-songwriters from Virginia include Jason Mraz and jam bands like Bruce Hornsby, Keller Williams, and Dave Matthews Band, who continue their strong charitable connection to Charlottesville, Virginia.[18] Influential stage-rock group GWAR also began at Virginia Commonwealth University. Notable performance venues include The Birchmere, Nissan Pavilion, the Norva Theatre, the Patriot Center, and the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater.[16]

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is located in Vienna and is the only national park intended for use as a performing arts center. Wolf Trap hosts the Wolf Trap Opera Company, which produces an opera festival every summer.[19] The Harrison Opera House in Norfolk is home to the official Virginia Opera. The Virginia Symphony Orchestra is based in Hampton Roads. The American Shakespeare Center is located in Staunton, and home to resident and touring theater troupes. Other notable theaters include the Ferguson Center for the Arts, the Barter Theatre, and the Landmark Theater. Academy award winning actors such as George C. Scott, Warren Beatty, and Shirley MacLaine hail from the state. Other native actresses include Sandra Bullock and Wanda Sykes.


Celebrate Fairfax! is one of many county sponsored events across Virginia.

Many counties and localities host county fairs and festivals. The Virginia State Fair is held at the Richmond International Raceway every September. The September Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach celebrates the city, the waterfront, and regional artists. Norfolk's Harborfest, in June, features boat racing and air shows.[20] Fairfax County also sponsors Celebrate Fairfax! with popular and traditional music performances.[21] The Virginia Lake Festival is held during the third weekend in July in Clarksville.[22] In Amherst they celebrate Uncle Billy's Day .[23] Other food festivals are held around the state.

On the Eastern Shore island of Chincoteague the annual Pony Swim & Auction of feral Chincoteague ponies at the end of July is a unique local tradition expanded into a week-long carnival. The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is a six-day festival held annually in Winchester that includes parades and bluegrass concerts.[20] From 2005 to 2007, Richmond was host of the National Folk Festival. The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival is held on a May weekend in Reston.[24]

Two important film festivals, the Virginia Film Festival and the VCU French Film Festival, are held annually in Charlottesville and Richmond, respectively.[20] Annual fan conventions in the commonwealth include Anime USA, the national anime convention held in Crystal City, Anime Mid-Atlantic held in various cities, and Magfest music and gaming festival.[25] The Old Time Fiddlers' Convention in Galax, begun in 1935, is one of the oldest and largest such events worldwide.[20]


Literature in Virginia often deals with the state's extensive, and sometimes troubled, past. The works of Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Glasgow often dealt with social inequalities and the role of women in her culture.[26] Glasgow's peer and close friend James Branch Cabell wrote extensively about the changing position of gentry in the Reconstruction era, and challenged its moral code with Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice.[27] William Styron approached history in works such as The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice.[28] Tom Wolfe has occasionally dealt with his southern heritage in bestsellers like I Am Charlotte Simmons.[29] Virginia also names a state Poet Laureate, currently Claudia Emerson of Fredericksburg who will serve until 2010.[30]


  1. ^ McGraw, Eliza (June 24, 2005). Two Covenants: Representations of Southern Jewishness. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-3043-5. Retrieved 2007-11-29.  
  2. ^ Fischer, David Hackett; James C. Kelly (2000). Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement. University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0813917743.  
  3. ^ "Roots of Virginia Culture" (PDF). Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2007. Smithsonian Institution. July 5, 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-29.  
  4. ^ Keller, Christian B. (2001). "Pennsylvania and Virginia Germans during the Civil War". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (Virginia Historical Society) 109: 37–86. Retrieved 2008-04-12.  
  5. ^ Joseph, John Earl (2006). Language and Politics. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 63. ISBN 0748624538. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  6. ^ "Virginia Selected Social Characteristics in the United States". United States Census Bureau. 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-11.  
  7. ^ Clay III, Edwin S.; Patricia Bangs (May 9, 2005). "Virginia's Many Voices". Fairfax County, Virginia. Retrieved 2007-11-28.  
  8. ^ Miller, John J. (August 2, 2005). "Exotic Tangier". National Review. Retrieved 2008-10-09.  
  9. ^ "Code of Virginia > 3.1-867". LIS. July 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-28.  
  10. ^ "Assessment of the Profitability and Viability of Virginia Wineries" (PDF). MKF Research LLC. Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. June 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-26.  
  11. ^ "Virginia Grape Acreage Increases in 2007" (PDF). National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2008-04-07.  
  12. ^ "Mission & History". Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-09.  
  13. ^ "Art on View". Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. December 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-08.  
  14. ^ "Collections — Bust of the Savior". Chrysler Museum of Art. 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-08.  
  15. ^ Smith, Julian (2008). Moon Virginia: Including Washington, D.C.. Avalon Travel. pp. 22–25, 152–153, 356. ISBN 1598800116. Retrieved 2008-11-02.  
  16. ^ a b Howard, Blair; Mary K. Burnham, Bill Burnham (2006). The Virginia Handbook. Hunter Publishing, Inc. pp. 29, 88, 121, 152, 165, 193, 206, 292, 363, 432. ISBN 1588435121. Retrieved 2008-12-02.  
  17. ^ "The world's Top 10 hip-hop producers". CanWest News Service. September 19, 2006. Retrieved 2008-06-17.  
  18. ^ "Charities". Dave Matthews Band. November 15, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-08.  
  19. ^ Scott, David L.; Kay W. Scott (2004). Guide to the National Park Areas. Globe Pequot. pp. 307–308. ISBN 0762729880. Retrieved 2008-11-07.  
  20. ^ a b c d Goodwin, Bill (2004). Frommer's Virginia. Frommer's. pp. 23–25. ISBN 076457132X. Retrieved 2008-11-07.  
  21. ^ Meyer, Marianne (June 7, 2007). "Live!". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-07.  
  22. ^ "Virginia Lake Festival". Virginia Tourism Corporation. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-08.  
  23. ^ "Uncle Billy's Day". Uncle Billy's Day. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-17.  
  24. ^ Samsot, Bob (May 15, 2008). "Arts in Brief". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-09-30.  
  25. ^ "Conventions/Events". Northern Virginia Anime Association. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-02.  
  26. ^ Gray, Richard J.; Robinson, Owen (2004). A companion to the literature and culture of the American south. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 81, 103. ISBN 0-6312-2404-1.  
  27. ^ Kirkpatrick, Mary Alice. "Summary of Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice". Library of Southern Literature. University of North Carolina. Retrieved August 18, 2009.  
  28. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (November 2, 2006). "William Styron, Novelist, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved August 18, 2009.  
  29. ^ Dirda, Michael (November 7, 2004). "A Coed in Full". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 3, 2009.  
  30. ^ Crane, John (December 10, 2008). "Virginia's poet laureate returns to Chatham roots". Madison Messenger. Retrieved October 3, 2009.  


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