VCU School of Business artist-in-residence presents pop-up installation with nonperishable goods

Noah Scalin will create a large-scale portrait of Best Products co-founder Frances Lewis

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Noah Scalin.

This week, renowned artist Noah Scalin, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business’ first ever artist-in-residence, is creating his second large pop-up installation at the school.

Scalin begins “Portrait of Innovation: Frances Lewis” in the Snead Hall Atrium, 301 W. Main St., on March 27. The artist will arrange canned goods and toiletries donated by students, faculty and staff to create a large-scale portrait of Lewis. A reception with Lewis will be held upon its completion on Tuesday, April 4, at 5 p.m. in the atrium.

Frances Lewis.
Frances Lewis.

Lewis, a Richmond businesswoman and philanthropist, founded Best Products Co., a catalog showroom retail chain, with her late husband, Sydney. Best Products was a pioneer in bringing arts into business. Starting in the 1970s, the chain had stores designed and built with unique architectural styles, pieces of art in and of themselves. A patron of the arts, Lewis has contributed numerous gifts to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts over the past five decades.

“We chose Mrs. Lewis because of the innovative work she has done in both the realms of business and art in Richmond over many decades,” Scalin said. “Despite being a partner in the creation of Best Products and a longtime supporter of the arts in Richmond, Mrs. Lewis has been given far less attention and recognition for her work than her husband.”

Last fall, Scalin created his first pop-up installation at the school with the “Portrait of Innovation: Maggie Walker,” a 30-by-10-foot portrait created with arranged clothing donated by the school community. The portrait could only be fully recognized from one spot in the atrium, physically illuminating the powerful impact of perspective. While Scalin had worked with clothing as a medium before, this is the first time he is using food items and sundries.

“Every time I create a large-scale installation it’s a challenge, but I like having a creative problem to solve,” he said. “There are plenty of unexpected variables, but that’s what makes it exciting. There’s a chance of disaster, but also the possibility of something really unique happening. I’m excited to be extending the work I’ve done previously at the school. Watching and helping me in this process, the students are able to really understand the practical application of the creative toolkit that I’ve been introducing them to this year as part of my residency.” 

“Given the complexity of business today, it is important that we all learn to think differently and approach problems in creative ways,” said Ken Kahn, Ph.D., senior associate dean of the VCU School of Business. “Noah’s work is a tangible example of that. We are excited to see how Noah uses the tubes of toothpaste, packaged foods and other donated goods to pay tribute to Mrs. Lewis and the pioneering role of Best Products.”

The Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond are presenting the project with the VCU School of Business.

“The ICA is delighted that VCU School of Business is honoring Mrs. Frances Lewis for her tremendous contribution to the arts and business communities in Richmond,” said Lisa Freiman, director of the ICA. “The School of Business has been a wonderful partner with the ICA through its development and we all believe in the power of creativity to drive new research and perspectives.”

“The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is excited to partner with the VCU School of Business and artist Noah Scalin to realize this project celebrating Mrs. Lewis who has been a great friend to VisArts and has made such an important mark on the art and business communities in Richmond,” said Stefanie Fedor, executive director of VisArts. “VisArts’ mission is to engage the community in the creative process through the visual arts and we are thrilled to support artist Noah Scalin who takes such an inclusive and community-based approach in all of his projects.”

Scalin founded and co-runs the art and innovation consulting firm Another Limited Rebellion, which works with clients such as GE, Altria, Capital One, Gap, Intuit and Mozilla. He is creator of the Webby Award-winning Skull-A-Day project and the author of five books on art, design and creativity. His art has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, including the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago and Krause Gallery in New York. He has been featured in dozens of publications, including Fast Company, Business Destinations, Wired, USA Today, The Telegraph and The New York Times.

The work will remain on display at Snead Hall through Friday, April 7. Once dismantled, the nonperishable items and toiletries will be given to RamPantry and Forgotten Soldiers.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The VCU Health brand represents the health sciences schools of VCU, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit and