You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
– Abraham Lincoln
Volume 76 | Issue 2
March 2008

Mural, mural on the wall

The college union is a gathering place for the campus, a place where students can rest between classes and that often serves as host for a variety of programs. With constant activity in the college union, students and professionals alike are always considering ways to improve the building’s aesthetics. Over the years, murals have provided a way to increase a union’s visual appeal, often with the added benefit of fulfilling students’ academic credits and memorializing the facility’s history or mission. Murals allow the union a chance to showcase a distinctive piece of work; it may be the labor of a staff member or a gift from a senior class, but it will always be unique. What follows is a gallery of unique murals in campus life facilities at ACUI member institutions.

University of Alaska–Fairbanks
William Ransom Wood Campus Centeralaska2032008

In 1986, two students, Cheryl Langlois and Michelle Waldele, painted a mural for the William Ransom Wood Campus Center at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks for their senior thesis.

"Passing of Time" is an illustration of Alaska’s seasons.

"Seasons are very important to Alaskans," said Lydia Anderson, director. "Our seasons are so short that if we were going to accomplish certain things—like building, hunting, skiing, gardening—we would have to do them in a short window of time."

alaska1032008Also, animals are hidden within the mural because seasons are important to the animals as well.

The Pub, a bar located in the union, also features a mural. According to Anderson, "we wanted a fun backdrop."

"We happened to have a student employee that had a brother who painted murals, and he was coming up to Alaska to visit," Anderson said.

While the mural does not have a formal name, Anderson calls it "Wilderness at the Pub."

University of North Dakota
Memorial Union

During a major renovation to the University of North Dakota’s Memorial Union in 2004–05, students on the renovation committee wanted to include a mural. It was decided that one could be painted in the Internet Café.Dakota032008

"We wanted something that looked to the future, while still connecting to our past," said Tony Trimarco, director. "As a result, the design incorporated several images from the union’s history as well as futuristic images, all involving communications."

Myke Knuston and Darin Drummer, two alumni who often partner on such projects, were chosen to work on the mural.

"We realized that people of all origins and of all times have been in constant communication, making use of the crudest to the most sophisticated of technologies. Though we have included images of the rustic Pony Express to the highly sophisticated Voyage disks of the renowned Cark Sagen, we have left out centuries of methods used to exchange information.

"Our effort, rather than to provide all the answers, was to help pose the question: ‘What do you think of when considering the vastness of communication?" said the artists at the unveiling ceremony in October 2004.

During the grand opening of the Memorial Union, a special ceremony was held to unveil the mural. It is also featured during tours and orientations.

"The mural compliments that area, and students are really impressed," Trimarco said.

University of Missouri
Memorial Student Unionmissouri1032008

The Memorial Student Union at the University of Missouri has two murals. In January, the most recent one was installed, a three-piece oil painting by local artist David Spear.

"The two side panels give aerial depictions of our architecturally distinct red and white campus," said Joe Hayes, assistant director. "The center panel celebrates our campus diversity in front of the Memorial Tower, a central landmark of the campus."

The new mural was placed in the Tower Lounge, an area that celebrates the Memorial Tower’s history and provided an additional seating area for students.

"Aspire," another mural, was created in 1995 by Richard Napier, a graduate student at the time.

missouri2032008"The left and center panels present Mark Twain, Thomas Hart Benton, Jane Froman, and George Washington Carver as contemporary representative of famous Missourians," Hayes said. "A diverse group of students is depicted on the right."

This mural is located on the second floor of the building, where four meeting rooms are named for the famous men and woman depicted.

"The title of the piece, ‘Aspire,’ is a message to students that they, too, should aspire to achieve great things," Hayes said.

Oberlin College
Oberlin College Student Union

At Oberlin College, the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse is a student attraction.

"It is a 200-capacity venue that is open seven nights a week and presents exclusively free shows, such as student musical and theatrical performances," said Tom Reid, assistant director.oberlin032008

In 1990, Josh Sarantitis, a student, designed and painted a mural in the venue. Two other students, Alex Aptekar and Chuck Webster, assisted him.

"I believe the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse was chosen because it is a student gathering space that is very musical, but the cinderblock walls did not imbue the room with any personality when painted off-white," Reid said.

So, the mural allowed for the coffeehouse to be aesthetically pleasing to customers.

"I think the mural is what makes the Cat in the Cream a unique and comfortable place to be. I wish the other blank wall was a mural as well," said Virginia Dreier, student and member of coffeehouse staff. "Murals offer a story as well as simply a colorful and interesting creation. In general, I think they can be very powerful, and the ones I have seen serve to create common bonds and ideals that transcend the place it is in."

Oregon State University
Memorial Union

In 1997, Oregon State University’s Memorial Union renovated a conference room with a Hispanic motif. As part of the dedication ceremony, the union commissioned a mural to be painted in the room. After reviewing his portfolio, students chose artist Hector Hernandez to create the mural.

oregon032008"The artist presented a concept sketch to the students, who then gave him feedback," said Michael Henthorne, director. "He eventually created a smaller painting, which the students approved prior to creating the wall-sized final work."

Other design techniques were used to compliment the mural and increase the aesthetics of the room.

"Pre-Columbian symbols were also etched into the wet plaster. When dry, the plaster was pointed with three layers of glaze, some of it applied with the artist’s hands," Henthorne said. "The resulting finish is the sort of discoloration one might find on the bottom of a copper pan—a mix of orange, blue, and green."

Next to the mural, called "La Raza," Hernandez’s interpretative statement is hung in both English and Spanish.

"It says that the painting represents the university and the universal aspirations of the Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano group. The native cultures and ancient civilizations are represented on the left side, which are the origins of the journey.

"On the right side, the colonizing of the Northwest is represented in a depiction of European migration and modern symbols. The OSU Memorial Union in the painting symbolizes the place in the university where races and cultures of different groups converge.

"The center of the mural is held by two persons who represent the light of the ancient wisdom on the left, and the figure on the right creates a linkage to the present, and she points to a promising new horizon," Henthorne said.

Salisbury University
Guerrieri Student Center

Last year, when a lounge was renovated at Salisbury University’s Guerrieri Student Center, murals were added to increase aesthetics. A mural now is located on either side of the lounge entrance.

"The two murals are a vehicle to separate this particular lounge from the rest of the building," said Lawanda Dockins-Gordy, director. "It has the name of the lounge, so as people are entering this special area they know they have moved from one area into another very specifically designed for students.

salisbury032008"The two murals feature pictures of students, staff, and faculty interactions as well as sporting events, greek organizations, volunteer opportunities, academic events, and more.

"I asked for a collection of pictures from the publications office and began to create along with them the feel I wanted these murals to capture," Dockins-Gordy said.

Since the unveiling in April 2007, the murals have received a positive response, and Dockins-Gordy said it is nice to see student recognize themselves and others in the murals.

With the success, plans are being made for more such murals.

"I am in the beginning stages of creating another mural at one of our main entrances that will incorporate the university’s student pledge," Dockins-Gordy said. "It has really helped our building come alive."

University of Southern Mississippi
Thad Cochran Center

In August 2006, when the new Thad Cochran Center opened at the University of Southern Mississippi, Bill Baggett was still working on his creation, "University’s Bounty."

For three months, students and visitors roamed in and out of the building, often stopping to catch a glimpse of the ongoing work.smiss032008

"They actually enjoyed watching him work on the project and actually see it develop," said Barbara Ross, director.

While Baggett, a professor of art and design at the university, finished painting the mural in four months, the total process took place more than two years.

"University’s Bounty" embodies the university’s motto: "Freeing the power of the individual." According to promotional materials, "The mural’s subject was developed in a representational style, which speaks to the university experience in a broad range of interrelated vignettes. These focus on development of the intellectual, emotional, and social aspects of individuals."

"The artist said that he painted the people in a way that lots of folks will look at the mural and think they see themselves," Ross said. "Several key administrators can be spotted immediately, and others are still becoming noticed even today."

Syracuse University
Goldstein Student Center and Schine Student Centersyracuse2032008

Syracuse University features four murals throughout its two college unions.

"I think the murals are a wonderful reflection of the diversity we have at [Syracuse] and give our student centers a ‘student-centered’ feel to them," said David Pennock, assistant director.

Local artist Amy Bartell was commissioned to do the first two murals, designing one first for the Goldstein Student Center and then one for the Schine Student Center. Bartell’s two murals, "Campus Intersections, Global Connections" and "The Mural Project," allowed for students and staff to be part of the project as she gave everyone an opportunity to paint along with her, Pennock said.

syracuse1032008The other two murals, located in the Schine Student Center, are the work of former students and cover the walls of staircases leading to event spaces. "Symphony in Spray," created by Brian Gaidry in 1988, "represents the history of the hip-hop genre," Pennock said.

And in 2004, keeping with the music tradition, three seniors created "Music of the 21st Century" and received academic credit for the work.

"The mural contains sketches of many of the artists the students felt were prominent during their four years at Syracuse," Pennock said.  

University of Washington
Husky Union Building

In 1949, during planning stages for the Husky Union Building at the University of Washington, students suggested an open lounge between the second and third floor. Students in the offices wanted to be able to interact without going up and down stairs.

"They also wanted to the lounge to be comfortable, a gathering spot to relax and socialize, and so a fireplace was added," said Paul Zuchowski, associate director.

The fireplace created an area that the same students wanted to fill to show their many contributions to the student government and student activities over the years. Therefore, it was decided that a mural be created to commemorate the first 25 years of the university’s history.Washington032008

A local artist, Ernest Norling, was commissioned to paint the mural.

"He talked to students, faculty, and staff to get some ideas and did some research himself on major events in the student and university history," Zuchowski said.

Norling painted the mural offsite, and it was installed in the lounge on Oct. 23, 1949, shortly before the grand opening.

The mural has no formal title, but across the bottom is the unofficial university motto, coined by former University President Henry Schmitz: "This is a university of a thousand years."

As time progressed, most students did not realize what the mural represented. So in 1986, a display case was added, containing information about the artist and what the mural represents.

"From a historical standpoint, as I am the unofficial building historian, it represents the many contributions made by students, particularly the Associated Students of the University of Washington," Zuchowski said. "These were significant in the development of the university, and we are indeed fortunate to house the mural."

Wayne State University
Student Center

From 1992–95, Michael Bowen, then-Wayne State University Student Center operations manager, worked on a mural still showcased within the facility. The mural gives a panoramic view of the campus.

Wayne032008"The intent of the mural was multipurpose: to brighten the area and to have people reflect upon the history of the university’s urban educational mission, and its rich tradition of multicultural influences and involvement," said Bowen, now interim director.

According to a July 1993 Bulletin article, Bowen worked diligently on the mural in the evenings and weekends, even coming in during the holidays. It is what he considered a labor of love.

"I am very proud of the piece and happy the university recognized me for producing the work," Bowen said.

In 1993, Bowen said that he wanted to add additional panels to the mural. Today, it covers more than 1,600 sq. ft.

"Aesthetically, it has been an ongoing success because viewers can sit in the area while eating or playing and enjoy the piece," Bowen said.

For his work, Bowen received the Presidents Exceptional Service Award and is proud that the mural is still meaningful to the campus community.

"I have seen parents and visitors posing for pictures in front of it," Bowen said. "They were engrossed during the process, and they continue to talk about it even today."

Western Oregon University
Werner University Center

In 2001, Western Oregon University’s Multicultural Student Services and Programs wanted its new office in the Werner University Center to better reflect the program’s purpose. So, Macias Vidana, a student worker, volunteered his skill to create a mural.woregon032008

"The mural represents diversity and higher education," said Chelsee Blatner, operations coordinator.

Included in the murals are images of Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and many other icons of U.S. history.

According to Blatner, the two quotes that best describe the mural are located in its center: "As Americans of various races, we share a broad cultural background, a commonality of society that links its diverse elements into a cohesive whole that can be defined as American" (August Wilson) and "Without struggle there is no progress" (Frederick Douglas).

From these quotes, a common mantra has come to define the mural: "The price of ignorance is far greater than the cost of an education," Blatner said.

Western Washington University

wwashington032008In 1996, Western Washington University’s Moviemiento Esudiantil Chicano a/de Aztlán (Chicano Student Movement to/of Aztec) held the La Raza (the race) Youth Conference to reach out to Latino youth.

"This conference was coordinated in hopes of building a bridge between the high school students and college community as well as the surrounding community," said Jim Schuster, director. "The members of the group saw the need for the Latino youth to have role models and people that they could relate to."

Since murals are often used to tell stories, it was decided that a mural should be created to commemorate the conference, as all those who attended had a story to tell.

"Chicano art is very expressive of the history of La Raza, blended with the issues that young people are confronted with today," Schuster said. "Within this mural, artists are telling a story of Chicano/Latino history with the Aztec prince and princess, the winged serpent, the eagle warrior, and the flag—all of which are very strong pieces of the culture."

The creation of the mural offered a chance for the individuals to be validated for their work and recognized in a much larger sense, Schuster said.

University of Wisconsin–Platteville

At the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, Heritage Hall features many reminders of the university’s history. In 2005, to add to the aesthetics of the area, a mural was created that features historical university buildings and symbols.platteville032008

According to James Ball, assistant director, 13 buildings and symbols were chosen based on their historical significance to the university. Included in the mural are: Ullsvik Hall, the former union dedicated in 1959; Ullrich Hall, the oldest building on campus, constructed in 1916–17; Platteville Academy, a building from the State Normal School, one of the two schools that formed the university; Old Main, another original building from State Normal School; State Normal School and Wisconsin Mining School Building, which, at different times, housed both schools that formed the university; the "M," the world’s largest M, it was constructed of limestone in 1937.

The emblems in the mural represent those of the Wisconsin Mining School, State Teachers College, Wisconsin State College, Wisconsin State College and Institute of Technology (two seals), Wisconsin State University, and the university’s current seal.

"The mural is very well received by students, staff, and visitors alike," Ball said. "Alumni love seeing the historical buildings, and the mural has become a popular place for group photos."