Saturday, June 6, 2009
Southeast Whitesburg Mural--01 The Beginning
The Whitesburg campus of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in the Fall 2009 term. (The college as a whole celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2010).
The original Whitesburg campus building was renovated from an empty Coca-Cola bottling plant. The photo to the right shows the original front of the building with its logo, as it looks today. This is now the back of the building. Two other buildings were added to the campus over the past thirteen years.
The committee responsible for planning the twentieth anniversary celebration felt that the lobby of the Coca-Cola building (aka the administration building) needed a new focal point, that it was too bland and empty -- as is apparent in the photo to the left that shows what one sees as they enter the front doors of the building. (Normally there would be seating for students across bottom of the wall, but the maintenance department had just finished stripping and re-waxing the floors when the photo was taken on Friday). The committee's decision was to find someone to paint a mural on the big blank wall.
The committee talked to several local artists, none of whom had any real enthusiasm for the project. Then one committee member remembered seeing some of my paintings in my office, and a conversation we had once had when I told him about painting a small mural in my office complex at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He cornered me at our honors night in May, and asked if I would be interested in the project. My first thought was "oh my goodness, I couldn't do that." But the more I thought about it the more enthusiastic I got. So I put together an electronic portfolio to submit to the committee (to view the portfolio click http://www.flickr.com/photos/27863300@N08/ and then look on the right hand side of the page are "sets" for the one labeled "Drawings and Paintings" That set is organized with paintings and landscapes first, then portraits and sketches of people). They were wildly enthusiastic. Most had no idea I painted, much less that I minored in studio art in college.
The committee then asked me for a "proposal" for the project. The theme of the wall is "A Dream Realized" based on the words of the family that was most instrumental in getting started the project of a college campus for Whitesburg. I envisioned a historical panorama in which the major buildings were displayed in historical order from left to right against the backdrop of our beautiful hills in spring time foliage. The river (North Fork of the Kentucky River) which runs between the college buildings would be featured along with the ducks that are an omnipresent feature of the college life. The lower half of the painting would depict students studying, talking, learning, and would feature our four allied health programs -- physical therapy assistant, radiography, respiratory therapy, and soon to start an evening and weekend nursing program (the college has always had LPN and RN programs centered on other campuses).
I created a digital "sketch" with MS Paint (not an easy thing to do with only a mouse), that showed at least an rough representation of what I hoped to do. (The area with the students I envision as being filled with students, I just didn't have time to put all the details into the proposal sketch). Below you can see the "sketch" pasted into the wall.
The committee liked the proposal and I was "hired." Last Tuesday June 2, we ordered all the paints and supplies and on Friday June 5, they arrived. (A shameless commercial plug -- Dick Blick art supply company ROCKS!). The only thing lacking is the scaffolding that will allow me to work all the way to the top of the 10 foot wall. That has to be brought in from our central campus.
I am excited and scared. I am confident of my artistic abilities, but am worried about my physical capabilities. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disk disease, and several other problems have limited my mobility. I'm going to have to climb up and down from scaffolding, and stand for hours at a time, reaching and stooping to complete this work. On the plus side, it will almost certainly help me lose weight!
I plan to chronicle the entire project here in my blog through posts and photographs. Hope you all will enjoy reading about it as much as I will enjoy doing it.