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Q&A with Matt Lively, artist behind the Wonder Tower’s ‘Leave Your Mark’ mural
September 22, 2022
Richmond artist Matt Lively smiles in front of the CHoR parking deck pillars

    Q&A with Matt Lively, artist behind the Wonder Tower’s ‘Leave Your Mark’ mural

    If you can dream it, Matt Lively can draw it—and he’s proving it. Earlier this month, the Richmond-based artist began taking whimsical suggestions of animals doing outlandish activities from patients and the community as a way to raise funds for the new Wonder Tower, set to open early spring 2023. The mural, located on the tower’s ground-level parking deck, engages long-time and first-time donors alike to bring an element of joy and creativity to the hospital.

    The new art exhibition, consisting of eight large pillars, will be the first and last thing patients and families see.

    Leave Your Mark was designed to be a campaign aimed at encouraging the entire Richmond community to give, no matter the amount. When finished, the aptly-named mural series will represent the way people of all ages have a hand in making CHoR such a special place—with both their creative ideas and donor names incorporated throughout the mural. Everyone who participates will leave their mark.

    Lively, a Richmond native, has become known for his unique and uplifting murals, paintings and sculptures seen around the city. He has a long history with CHoR, having painted a two-part mural in the Children’s Pavilion ground level lobby and a piece in our Virginia Treatment Center for Children.

    We spoke with Matt about his vision for the mural series and how he plans to tackle this project.

    Tell us about some of your goals for this mural series. What are your intentions or motivations behind this particular piece?

    Whenever I work with CHoR, I am thinking from a child’s perspective. It really has little to do with me, even the mural in the Children’s Pavilion lobby which was intended to tell a story to the kids that were walking in the building. It’s the same thing with the Leave Your Mark pillars when the kids are arriving at the hospital. I want them to know that this is a place where they can still be a kid.

    The goal is always to make the patients feel better, make them feel comfortable with why they're here. So, anything that I can do to cheer them up helps. Even if it doesn’t make them feel better about being in the hospital, then at least it will distract them. With that in mind, I’m just a laborer.

    What kind of preparations do you typically do for something like a mural? Do you usually bring along an assistant?

    The prep work for me is getting the proper paint that will adhere to the surface and getting the ideas of what the animals are going to be doing from the people who have volunteered them. That way I can start getting my brain around drawing and painting these things in real time and doing it fairly quickly. Then I will order a lift rental, get my paint and begin.

    I find it’s better not to use an assistant. To keep the drawing style consistent it's best that I just do it myself.

    Do you plan to follow a certain process in order to fit all of the animals and names on each column?

    It’s sort of tough because I really don't know how many suggestions there will be. We’re hoping to receive a lot of ideas from the community. I’m eager to see what people come up with and also somewhat nervous. But then I remember, ultimately, things just tend to work out. Being an artist for the majority of my life, I’ve learned to always be flexible.

    This is now the third mural you’ve done for the hospital. What sets this project apart from the others?

    Murals are much different than studio work. In the studio it’s just me and my thoughts, and it actually gets quite lonely. I love getting input from other people. My dream is to one day paint a public mural that’s made up of only people's suggestions as they pass by.

    This one is very close to that. As people understand the process, they'll hopefully be encouraged to give me a concept and find out what I can handle. I want them to test my limits to see if I can paint their outrageous ideas. I'm excited about how imaginative they can make them. I really enjoy getting the opportunity to work with people that are smarter than me and have better ideas. I can just become the facilitator at that point and let my brush do the rest.

    How to participate in Leave Your Mark

    You can make an online donation of any size above the five dollar minimum and also ask Matt to paint Virginia wildlife doing whatever you want. The only limit is your imagination. While there, don’t forget to submit your name to be added to one of the columns and then spread the word to friends and family.

    You have until October 14 to participate and leave your mark!

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