• Press Release

The NEON District and The Governor's School for the Arts Reveal Newest Community Mural



Words and Images Courtesy of the Neon District and the Governor's School of the Arts


The NEON District and The Governor’s School for the Arts are pleased to present Norfolk’s newest mural, Gourmandizing NEON. The mural will be unveiled during the second evening of the NEON Festival on October 21, 2022 at 5:45 PM on the Olney Road-facing side of Virginia Furniture at 745 Granby Street in the NEON District.

Earlier this year, London-based artist Matthew McGuiness, known for creating empathetic, viscerally dynamic cultural signage and community-centric murals, and Gourmandizing London project producer Addiel (Dzino) Dzinoreva participated in a six-week series of virtual workshops with The Governor’s School for the Arts visual arts students, researching the theme, "Investigating Norfolk’s Historic Menus During Lunchtime.” In these workshops, Matthew and the London-based Gourmandizing team steered the students towards desk and field research, taught public art techniques, the building of mood boards and sample mural designs. The students interviewed local NEON and Norfolk businesses and residents, visited the Sargeant Memorial Collection and shared their own family recipes to produce an astonishing range of historical content, contemporary stories, sentimental quips and anecdotes pertaining to lunch in Norfolk.

GSA student Felix Head admitted that “the research was kind of hard, but it was interesting to hear what other people ate with their friends and family. Over many years, food has tied us all together.”

Over the summer, the London team pieced together the students’ food stories and synthesized their drawings into a final mural design, which is now in production on the side of Virginia Furniture. Matthew, assisted by the ten GSA students from the spring class, will be on site painting the mural until October 21. The public is invited to watch their progress as lunchtime and its themes are revealed. Significant elements include local nods to Doumar’s ice cream cones, Smithfield ham, Duke of Norfolk punch, H.E. Williams Candy Company and Chesapeake Bay oysters. Gourmandizing will also produce a zine that illustrates the process of distilling the student body's findings, developmental works and final makings. An exhibition encapsulating the entire project will be on display at Commune Norfolk during the NEON Festival on October 21, with a small plates and drinks menu inspired by the Gourmandizing recipes and research.

As Matthew noted while here in Norfolk, “Twelve years ago, I was preparing to be married at the Chrysler Museum of Art and I spent hours in and out of the NEON District running wedding errands. I was drawn to the (NEON) neighborhood like a beacon, stealing away for a spell or two, staring at the then dormant buildings - awaiting their reactivation - imagining all the potential that the area could provide. Today, I am collaborating with ten dedicated students, participating in and contributing to revitalizing the district. We are demonstrating the adage Virginia is for (food) Lovers.”

An opening event presented by PRA Group will be held following the ribbon cutting at 6:00 PM at Commune Norfolk with tabling by the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, live music from The Governor’s School for the Arts Jazz Band and a performance on food inequities by Teens with a Purpose. The entire Gourmandizing project was made possible by The Monument Companies and Legend Property Group. Additional support was provided by The Governor’s School for the Arts Foundation, The Rutter Family Art Foundation, Mr. Joseph T. Waldo, and Virginia Furniture Company.

Presented by Arts Alliance and Old Dominion University, The NEON Festival is a two-evening celebration of the NEON’s visual and performing arts community. After the dedication ceremony, stay and enjoy local and national artists, performers and musicians, food and drink, or wander through neighborhood streets to discover the many art happenings. The full schedule is available at www.neonnfk.com/festival.The event is free and open to the public.

Norfolk’s first official arts district, NEON, is home to long-time cultural institutions like the Chrysler Museum of Art and Harrison Opera House as well as studio-based ventures like d’Art Center and the Rutter Family Art Foundation, all providing artists a place to make, create and show. Within a few short blocks you can see a muralist at work, take in an improv comedy performance at Push Comedy Theater, watch a live glass-working demonstration, shop for unique home goods, get a tattoo or dine out at an eclectic restaurant. Learn more at www.NEONNFK.com and follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @neonnfk.

The Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) is a center for innovation that develops excellence, nurtures creativity, inspires artistic vision and builds communities with a passion for the arts. GSA is a regional program serving eight school divisions in Hampton Roads.


Downtown Norfolk Council is a private, not-for-profit membership organization comprised of businesses and individuals working toward a dynamic, attractive and prosperous Downtown. DNC also manages the Downtown Norfolk Improvement District, a 50-block special services district with enhanced services that keep Downtown friendly, safe and spotless. Connect with Downtown Norfolk on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or visit DowntownNorfolk.org.

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