NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The NEON District has a new mural, focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Two Fine Arts teachers from Norfolk Public Schools were selected to paint the mural in September.

The artwork that reflects the current culture can be spotted on the back of O.J. Wholesale, also home to Black-owned business Furious Styles.

“We really wanted to show off some of our long term, black businesses in the neighborhood. So, ‘Furious Styles’ is on the top floor and ‘OJ Wholesale’ is on the bottom. They had this blank canvas that was perfect for a new mural,” said Rachel McCall, director of Strategic Initiatives for the Downtown Norfolk Council.

The NEON District and Downtown Norfolk Council hosted an open call this summer for artists to paint two murals in the area during September.

Nicole Harp, of Granby High School, and Clayton Singleton, of Lake Taylor High School, applied to paint both murals and received the larger commission for the O.J. Wholesale spot at 737 Granby Street.

“The call came out and I reached out to Clayton Singleton. As a gay female fighting oppression, I resonated with the concept behind the mural. We put together the proposal and some drawings and got selected,” said Harp.

“I felt like I needed to include the things that are actively going. We need to talk about what’s been happening like COVID and people being in the streets because they’re tired of injustices,” Singleton added.

From start to finish, it took Harp and Singleton about three weeks to complete the mural. Norfolk State University also sent two students from their Fine Arts Department to assist in completing the project.

Both teachers hope the mural serves as an inspiration to the community to not only pay attention to the world around them but be a part of the solution.

“My responsibility is twofold. I have students who are engaged in this movement and what’s going on, and they’re enraged. This project is a way for me to show them they can speak out; their voices can be heard in whatever way. The other part is me as an artist, it’s my chance to use my art as a message — a tool evoke change,” Harp continued.

“We are as strong as our strongest link and I hope this helps to push that message forward. Our strongest link may be sitting on the sideline. I want those sitting on the side to come on, and get involved in this. Do your part to be a part of our future,” said Singleton.

This project is in partnership with several long-standing and diverse neighborhood businesses, showcasing a wide range of community involvement and investment.

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