about the exhibit

During the month of August, Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center hosted the “Out of the Classroom” exhibit which is exclusively comprised of works by an artist, or group of artists, who teaches. This August, artists (and married couple) Alexandra and Jimi Whiteside are displaying a joint exhibit entitled “Out of the Classroom: The Soul of the Artist”.
Alex Whiteside paints mostly abstracts while Jimi Whitside creates images that help him to articulate his unique point of view as an autistic artist. In the words of Alex Whiteside, “Jimi paints realistic and surrealistic themes and I paint mainly nonrepresentational abstracts, but the common thread between the two of us is the interpretation of emotion, nostalgia and memories, and the creativity that comes from the soul.”

The opening reception was held on August 4th, 2018 and the closing reception was held on August 31st, 2018. At both receptions, Alex & Jimi raffled off a piece of artwork. The proceeds were donated to the arts education at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center.


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Alexandra “Alex” Whiteside

 Alexandra Whiteside has been an adjunct instructor in the Interior Design Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the Art Institute of Virginia Beach since 2012. The subjects she teaches include architectural drafting, working drawings, digital 3D rendering, and design process, as well as Senior Studio and Portfolio capstone courses. Alexandra also holds art workshops through the Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News, and teaches art and photography through Creative Music and Entertainment in Chesapeake. Alexandra and her husband Jimi regularly sponsor volunteer art sessions for senior citizens with cognitive impairment at The Memory Center in Virginia Beach. Alexandra and Jimi are also currently developing an art program for adults with special needs in association with the Knights of Columbus.

Alexandra has been professionally involved in the visual arts for over 30 years, including a 10-year career in theater as both an actress and set designer. Her formal education is an eclectic creative mix of photography, dramatic arts, fine art and interior design.  Alexandra entered the interior design profession in 1985, working for Sandy Klein Interiors in New York City. She transitioned to the design-build industry, working in construction project management for Shearson-Lehman American-Express through the late 1980’s.

Alexandra holds a Virginia Class A contractor’s license with both the commercial and residential builder classifications, and in 2016 she earned the 132-hour Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Professional certification. Alexandra and Jimi own Chelsea Design Studio, a design-build firm, and Whiteside Art Studios, a fine arts studio in Norfolk, VA. Alexandra and Jimi together provide decorative painting, murals, and commissioned fine art paintings for corporate and residential clients.

Artist Statement:

I enjoy creating artwork in a range of mediums, with the majority of my pieces being paintings in oil and acrylic. My style frequently reflects a “freedom of expression” influence by modernists such as Hans Hoffman and Piet Mondrian, but I do not try to adhere to or mimic a specific art movement. 

Typically, I prefer to use abstracted forms that explore story-telling through the manipulation of color and texture. Instead of dictating what message people should derive from my paintings, I construct art as a vehicle that elicits a unique story and emotional response from each viewer.

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James "Jimi" Whiteside – Bio

Jimi Whiteside studied fine arts at Old Dominion University and received an A.A. in graphic design and illustration from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 1984. 

Originally working in the mid to late 1980’s as a civil engineering designer and draftsman for Langley McDonald, the largest engineering firm in Hampton Roads at the time, Jimi was the first artist in history to receive the Excellence Award from the Army Corps of Engineers (for his cartography work on the James River Flood Plane Maps).  Jimi also received an award of merit from VDOT for his conceptual artwork for the Wicomico Bridge Actualization Project, and his drawings for the Phalanx Missile Defense System were framed and displayed at the Pentagon.

Jimi transitioned from civil design into a more lucrative commercial market, including set actualization for Paramount Pictures and Paramount Parks in the 1990’s. Jimi’s props can be seen in the films Addams Family Values and Wayne’s World II.

From 1993 through 2002, Jimi contracted with Vapp Studios and SOEDA Design Group, specializing in toy and cold-cast porcelain prototype design for Disney, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers Design Group, Lucasfilm, and Dragonball Z for Bandai (Japan).  During his years at Vapp and SOEDA, Jimi had the honor of working in collaboration with Frank Frazetta, H.R. Giger (Morpheus Gallery, Munich, Germany), Simon Bisley, Boris Vallejo, and the estate of Vaughn Bode.

In 2002, Jimi retired from commercial art venues to concentrate on a full-time fine art career, and he currently owns Chelsea Design Studio and Whiteside Art Studios with his wife, Alexandra.  Jimi has been featured in two international fine art magazines and has won two awards for his paintings and one award for sculpture. He is also an internationally award-winning fine-scale modeler.

Artist Statement

Commercially, I do people and animal portraits in a style that is realistic with a nostalgic tone.  My personal artwork, however, is typically inspired by memories and dreams, and my paintings are usually autobiographical with a surreal twist. I work in both oils and acrylics, with a style influenced by surrealist and fantasy artists, most notably Rene Magritte.

I create lighting, shadows, angles and proportion in an exaggerated and dysmorphic fashion to convey the distortion of memory and reality through the passage of time. The result is subject matter that is familiar to the viewer but may also be unsettling or perplexing.

I am on the autism spectrum, and although I am high functioning, verbal communication is difficult. With my more personal paintings, I am able to “describe” how I perceive the world around me through the lens of autism.

For more information on alex and jimi whiteside and to get in contact with them, please visit their website.


check out an interview with alex and jimi below!