Happier Times”, a mural by artist Troy Summerell, also known, as OnieTonie, can be found in Norfolk’s NEON District at 801 Granby Street. Summerell is a Hampton Roads based artist who is passionate about impacting the community with art, specifically colorful, happy, and playful designs. His love for the ocean and surf culture greatly influences his work. Summerell has painted an array of large scale, exterior murals throughout the Hampton Roads area, one being “Happier Times” in Norfolk’s NEON District. One of his most recent pieces is a massive mural that can be found inside the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter (CHKD) in Virginia Beach, where his goal was to “bring smiles and joy to young patients who need a pick-me-up”.

October is Visual Arts Month in Norfolk, meaning an abundance of art happenings all around town! Originally, the Visual Arts Month was a weeklong celebration, though, the events fastly became wildly popular, that the entire month of October has been dedicated to the visual arts in Norfolk! The Neon District is Norfolk’s first official arts district, with hopes of “harnessing the new every of Norfolk by providing local and touring artists and musicians a place to burn light”. The NEON District is transforming fast, and is most definitely the edgy place to be in Norfolk! A place where creative minds can meet, mingle, even collaborate!

We were able to get in touch with Troy Summerell, behind mural “Happier Times”, to ask a few questions about his piece. Take a peak inside the mind of Summerell, and be sure to check out “Happier Times” during the 2017 NEON Festival, from October 19-20! The free festival welcomes all to experience and enjoy the creative vibes of the NEON District through art exhibitions, along with local and national performances, and in depth, informational mural tours, where you can learn more about the artist behind the mural!

What was the inspiration behind this piece?

I got lucky and got in early with the NEON District. I was able to walk around the whole neighborhood and pretty much pick what I wanted to do, then of course had to get it approved through the proper channels. I had already done 'Art Everywhere' on Granby St. in 2011 so I had a prior relationship with Jesse Scaccia who was helping start the NEON. The Plot is the center of the district so my thought was to put a colorful school of my OnieTonie™ Smiling Fish from the Plot and run it down the 801 Building towards the new Glass Wheel Studio and the Chrysler Museum. The plan was to make the design bold and colorful and I couldn't have gotten luckier with the location.”

How did you get started with murals?

I got started with murals when I did my first one on my old studio gallery at the Oceanfront, called Studio 17. It was about 3-4 months before I got the NEON opportunity. I think my success with the mural on my studio let me have an easier entry into the NEON opportunity. I had to go into some pretty significant debt to get a space that took up an entire street corner on 17th street and from then I just went for it. Although the majority of my public art has been self-funded, I couldn't be happier how people have chosen to take pictures in front of them, making lasting memories with my colorful, positive art.”

What is your favorite thing about Norfolk?

“As far as Norfolk goes, that's where I was born. I could name drop a bunch of places I like going, but I think just in the most simplest terms I love Norfolk and I'm really grateful that I've gotten the opportunity to put up large scale public art there.”