Meet Local Artists Behind the ViBe Murals – The Virginian-Pilot

Leani Thurton had a big summer job. The Bayside high schooler painted a nine-foot-tall mural on the side of the Organic Beginnings Montessori school at 20 1/2 Street. She received a stipend and the honor of having her works displayed on the side of a building. Leani was one of 10 artists selected to participate in ViBe’s annual Mural Festival.

“When I got selected I was really surprised and just couldn’t help but smile,” Leani said. “I was also excited to paint a Montessori school because I attended one as a child.”

Since the age of 7, Leani has been creating art. Her creative upbringing includes a mother who owns a dance studio and an artist father. Leani’s artistic passions took off during COVID when she started a small business called Meraki Artworks. At the height of her activity, she was selling five paintings a week. In addition, she produced three murals for the ViBe Creative District.

Leani said it was her first big mural. His design featured a garden of huge peonies. “My idea was to make it interesting for children and to catch their eyes on the tall flowers,” she said. “Also, I wanted to include nature because it’s a biological school that does outdoor activities.”

Shadowlawn resident and artist Tessa Duquette also chose a nature theme for her mural on 17th Street. Her mural “She Sells Seashells by the Seashore” depicts seashells found along the Virginia Beach shoreline. Duquette said the murals at the ViBe have inspired him for years to create his own works of art.

“Painting a mural in the ViBe marinated in my brain for years,” she said. “When I applied this year, I thought the shells would be the perfect complement to the ViBe.”

Mia Guile quit her teaching job at ODU during the pandemic to pursue her lifelong dream as a painter. Today, his daily work consists of painting in oil on large canvases. However, her biggest canvas to date is the mural she painted on the side of Esoteric for the Mural Festival. The Shadowlawn resident’s ViBe mural is titled “Under the Light of the Blue Moon”.

Her abstract mural shows a blue moon, a changing sky, and curved candlesticks that represent self-defense. The irregularities of the candlesticks allude to the interruptions that occur in life.

“I love the feeling of expression I’m able to get on such a large format,” Guile said. “I loved the experience of painting my first mural. It is a rewarding gift.

The fifth annual ViBe Mural Festival ran from August 19-28 and added 10 new murals painted by local and national artists. All of the murals are located within a 1.5 mile walk and the owners are committed to preserving the murals for at least two years. For a complete map of all the public art murals and creative crosswalks in the ViBe District, go to

Lee Belote,