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ODU Art Professor’s Mural Is on Display in Hampton

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

An Old Dominion University art professor was chosen to create a mural celebrating the City of Hampton.

Associate Professor Richard Nickel, along with university students and alumni, created a mural called "From Sea to Sky," which highlights the city's history and present-day achievements. It was delivered Dec. 20.

Nickel's design was chosen by the Hampton Arts Foundation from a pool of applicants competing to bring public art to a new Kroger store on Mercury Boulevard. In the first round, applicants submitted examples of previous public murals - which was no issue for Nickel, who previously painted murals in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Rochester, N.Y., and Buffalo, N.Y.

Three finalists were chosen to submit a proposal for a mural representative of the city. Nickel's theme features landmarks that are both specific to the city - such as the architecturally significant Hampton Coliseum and City Hall - but also those significant to the African American community that helped lead the city to what it is today.

In his application, Nickel wrote: "The journey to our future includes working together and overcoming our differences. Aberdeen Gardens (the first community built by and for African Americans), the Emancipation Oak, the Newsome House, and the Tuskegee Airmen are represented as vital parts of the history of Hampton. The journey from sea to sky also highlights NASA and the many people from Hampton that worked together to overcome sometimes impossible-looking dreams."

"As a people, we can learn to work together, and literally go from the seas to the skies in the city," Nickel said. "The mural design also focuses on the natural progression of the city's history from the development of renowned universities, from civil rights activities to contemporary successes in science."

The mural was created in Nickel's on-campus studio using acrylic paint on four panels. Nickel said this is the first time he's painted a mural in-studio.

"I'm usually on a ladder or a cherry-picker, so painting flat is a nice change," he said. "There's no worrying about drips or weather."

Nickel was assisted in painting the mural by ODU student Savannah Davis, ODU art education alumna Jessica Long Kovalcik, assistant Oliver Guzman and Nickel's son, Oliver.

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