Brave. Empowered. Beautiful. Extraordinary.
Lori Pratico said those characteristics are what made her take notice of four local women. And now, through Pratico’s nonprofit art organization Girl Noticed, their faces are featured on a mural in the Neon District.
About 15 nominations were submitted by Norfolk residents, Pratico said. From those, she chose Deidre Love and Brandy Brown, representatives from local nonprofit Teens with a Purpose; Adrianne Burke, a yoga instructor and wellness advocate; and Linder “Hollywood” Lawrence of Hope House Foundation, an organization that provides supportive services to residents living with disabilities.
Each woman, she said, is a leader in their own way, whether they’re outgoing or shy.
“What it really comes down to is the fact that every woman is valuable, and it’s about noticing their value so that they empower themselves,” she said.
And if communities empower women, we would see fewer situations like those coming to light through the #MeToo movement, Pratico said. Younger girls need to know that they have a voice and people are paying attention, she said.
Pratico, an artist from Florida, was invited by the district’s public art committee to install the mural on a 91-foot wall located at 749 Boush St. The mural is a highlight of this year’s Neon Festival, which takes place Thursday and Friday.
She has completed more than a dozen murals so far, but this is her first in Virginia. Typically, she uses charcoal to complete her Girl Noticed murals because it makes the artwork temporary.
But Norfolk’s mural – in vivid blues, pinks and purples – is being painted. The building is slated for demolition in a year or so, so while the medium is more permanent than chalk, the mural itself remains temporary.
Across the street, art students inside Ghent Montessori are able to watch Pratico working through the window. The school’s art teacher, Renea Copeland, said having the artist working in their view has been a powerful lesson for her students.
“They’re very excited,” Copeland said. “They’re learning how to build a picture in real time.”
On Thursday morning, Pratico was only about halfway through her work, but that didn’t stop passersby from stopping to take pictures.
Tinetra Campbell, a 32-year-old Navy veteran from Suffolk, parked her car in a nearby gravel lot and snapped some photos. Campbell smiled from ear to ear, and shouted her thanks to Pratico.
Campbell said she just happened to be driving by, but circled back around the block to get a closer look at the mural. And as a black woman, seeing faces like her own on the mural was “truly awesome,” she said.
“In a time where we feel like we don’t have a voice and no one is taking us seriously, this is really powerful to see,” Campbell said. She said she’s planning to bring her daughters to see the mural this week, too.
Growing up in the 80s, Campbell said, there were often negative connotations attached to black women. But art like Pratico’s mural can help erase those stereotypes, Campbell said.
And that’s what makes her work worth it, Pratico said.
“I love the fact that it’s empowering young women in this community,” she said. “How many positive messages are out there for them? How many things can they turn to that represent them?”