On Sept. 4, the Public Art Committee approved a proposal to transform the 12-foot-high wall surrounding Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library into a community art installation, according to Janet Marsden, vice president of the Office of Communications. The wall, which is currently white, will be transformed into a dynamic mural that would change over its lifetime through contributions from different student groups.
Though official work on the project has yet to begin, Kenyon students have already shown interest in turning the wall into a canvas. The Lighthouse Collective adorned the wall with a number of decorated statements, as mentioned in a Collegian article last week.
According to Marsden, the students affiliated with the Lighthouse Collective were informed by Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlam, who oversees facilities at Kenyon, that their work would be painted over, as the wall was being painted with gray primer for a larger project. Marsden also said that she asked the students to keep in touch to see if they could be involved with the project as it moves forward.
Marsden has been developing plans for the project along with Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Noah Fischer.
According to the proposal the Office of Communications brought to the Public Art Proposal Committee, the project aims to “engage the Kenyon community (students, faculty, staff and alumni) in an interactive art installation that celebrates our shared values and aspirations using the wall surrounding the construction site for the West Quad.”
The proposed plan will take place in two phases. During the first phase of the project, the entire expanse of the wall will be painted with one design, referred to by Marsden as the “base foundation.” The Office of Communication hopes to finish this phase of the project by fall break, though a plan has yet to be finalized.
“The criteria that we have been thinking about [for the base foundation] are designs that unify the large space,” Marsden said, “but allow for changes and enrichments over time, that speaks to Kenyon’s values and aspirations in a contemporary and not overly narrative way, engages the community in installing and/or enriching the piece and that responds to the geometric shape of the plywood.”
Students in Esslinger’s Installation Art class (ARTS 360) and Fischer’s Rebranding and Reimagining Digital Media class (ARTS 191) have also been involved in the design for the base foundation.
One current idea for the base foundation is a large pixelated painting to which members of the community could contribute in a paint-by-numbers fashion.
The second phase of the project will allow other groups on campus to come up with their own contributions for the wall. Eligible organizations include registered student groups, academic classes and other Kenyon programs.
Interested groups would need to submit their designs to Marsden and Esslinger for review and approval before they begin working on the wall. Phase II of the project will begin as soon as the first phase is completed, and will be an ongoing project as long as the wall is up.
“I think this wall could be a source of community on campus,” said Bella Hatkoff ‘22, a student from Fischer’s course involved in the designing of Phase I. “Normally they [walls] mean ‘keep out’ — but we could open this up to everyone.”