On Saturday, Sept. 29, Kenyon students, faculty and community members gathered to paint a collaborative mural onto what has been a contentious canvas— the wall surrounding the demolition of the Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library andconstruction of the West Quad. The communal nature of the project inspired an event celebrating campus creativity with crafts and performances from student groups, sponsored by Social Board and the Office of Student Engagement.
The wall, primed white and stenciled with blue tape, began to bloom shades of purple and green as community members, donned in overalls, climbed scaffolding in order to paint. Student band Day Moon created a vibrant rhythm as children painted pumpkins and event-goers munched on corn dogs.
Before Saturday’s event, the wall has been periodically decorated with event announcements and unofficial art projects. Most notably, the newly formed student art collective Lighthouse criticized the construction project and advocated for increased financial aid by hanging posters, banners and collages on the wall at the beginning of the fall semester.
The mural is the first phase of the new public wall works project, which aims to incorporate the ideas of classes in the Department of Studio Art. Students from Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger’s Installation Art class and Visiting Professor of Art Noah Fischer’s Special Topic on Rebranding Imagery helped work on a proposal for the wall art. The Public Arts Committee — a group made up of students, faculty, administrators and Gund Gallery staff members— approved this proposal last month. In addition, the committee agreed that phase two would enlist student organizations to create and promote their content by using the wall as a new epicenter of student life. As part of the start of phase one, the community posted 50 designs on an idea board in the lobby of Horvitz Hall.
“The common themes we decided worked the best were the topography of Gambier, the Kokosing River and the natural environment of Ohio, so we used them to serve as a unifying design throughout the wall,” Oscar Dow ’19, student co-designer of phase one of the project, said.
These motifs were incorporated into one finalized concept, designed by Michaela Orr ’19, Bella Hatkoff ’22, Kíra Lancz ’21 and Francis Byrne ’20. The wall uses bold, thick strokes to make an abstract allusion to the surrounding landscape; each panel, divided by depictions of Middle Path trees, creates a contrast to the curving lines that evoke the Kokosing River. The design includes a space for digital media projections and areas of blackboard paint for students to express themselves. In addition, student organizations will be invited to help enhance the mural.
Despite the fact that many feel that nothing can fully replace the library for two years, the artistic venture proved to suffice as a positive, fueling power for all.
“The mural is a great example of Kenyon’s dedication to our community,” said Miah Tapper ’21, one of the students who painted the wall. “Put up a blaring, somewhat obnoxious white wall in the middle of campus, and we’ll transform it into a symbol of our unity and progression.”