News Column

Gabby Douglas Pops Up in Va. Beach Mural

Aug. 10, 2012

Stacy Parker

You know the face.

Young, bright, beaming with that "I'm bringing home two gold medals" smile.

It belongs to Gabby Douglas. And two local artists are doing their part to make sure the same face that will adorn Corn Flakes boxes this fall will be a fixture at home.

Brothers Todd and Eric Lindbergh have spent the past four days tending to every detail of her mug, meticulously painting the lines of her mouth, the arc of her eyes and the curves of her ears. The artists have created a tribute mural on an exterior wall at AJ Gator's Sports Bar & Grill, 3908 Holland Road.

"We wanted to do something with a positive message," Todd Lindbergh said.

As Douglas wowed the world with her gymnastics prowess at the Olympic Games in London, Virginia Beach laid claim to its hometown hero. Locals continue to give a shout-out to the first American gymnast to win the team gold and the all-around gold in the same Olympics. She's also the first female African American to win the top individual prize.

After three days of dodging sun-blazed mornings and afternoon rains, Todd Lindbergh took a step back from the nearly finished Gabby wall Wednesday. A car approached the AJ Gator's parking lot near Windsor Oaks Boulevard.

A young woman shouted, "Thank you for painting that; it's so beautiful."

The encouragement energized Lindbergh.

"It was the icing on the cake," he said. "That really touched me."

The mural is about 30 feet by 8 feet on the restaurant's east-facing brick wall and features the words "Way to go Gabby" in gold capital letters. Stars and stripes of the American flag are behind and next to her head. She's holding a gold medal.

"It's a feel-good thing," said Al Zuhars, who owns the building and the restaurant with Jeff Sharer.

Zuhars heard about the Lindberghs from a mutual friend. The two artists are mural specialists and commissioned canvas artists and have been painting locally for 25 years.

When they see a wall with art potential, they approach the owner with a concept that is often tied to current events. They've honored firefighters and fallen police officers with murals at the Oceanfront. They recently commemorated the Navy jet crash off Birdneck Road with a mural that features a boy holding a paper airplane on a wall adjacent to the crash site. They've painted mascot murals at several Beach public schools.

Zuhars liked the idea of featuring an Olympic phenom on the wall of his sports bar.

"It's cool when a hometown hero makes it big," Zuhars said.

He also said that while there are a plethora of professional athletes who hail from Virginia Beach, Douglas' showing at the Olympics puts her a cut above the rest.

"Gymnasts really just have a small window of opportunity," he said.

Other businesses have been celebrating her accomplishments, too.

On its marquee facing Atlantic Avenue, The Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel on 57th Street features this message: "Congrats Gabby we are proud of you."

"What better way to welcome people to Virginia Beach than by showing off one of our amazing talents?" Hannah Murphy, Wyndham's front desk manager, said. "We're proud and excited."



Source: (c)2012 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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