A Lasting Impression

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Annual artistic collaboration brings students, faculty and outside artists together

by Katya Hrichak '17; photos by Joe O'Neill and Wesley Lickus ’1

For the past five years, artists have been coming to Dickinson to help studio art majors and members of the Arts Collective paint a mural on the wall behind the Goodyear building. Each visiting artist works with around a dozen students to design the mural, prepare and paint the wall and record the process.

The project started as an idea shared between Professor of Art Ward Davenny and Associate Professor of Art Todd Arsenault ’99. Each fall, a different established artist, generally from New York or Philadelphia, is chosen to oversee the transformation of the wall. This year’s selected artist was Kate Stewart ’98, associate professor of art at West Chester University.

“It was really exciting for me to be able to come back to Dickinson to create a work of art with current students,” says Stewart. “I also love opportunities, like this one at Dickinson, to collaborate and connect with people, especially young artists, because it helps to revitalize me and breathe life into my practice. The students at Dickinson were so enthusiastic, bright and eager to help. It was such a fun day because of their energy!” 

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According to Willla Hut ’17, a three-time participant in the mural painting, the entire project was completed in one day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Stewart started the mural by outlining basic shapes and then instructing students to fill in the shapes in specific colors. The mural, titled “Orage” after the French word for “storm,” was designed in advance and loosely based on a larger mural Stewart painted.

Around noon, while the group took a lunch break, Stewart gave a talk and slideshow presentation of her work, which she describes as examining “perceptions of artifice, reality and escape in our culture.” After the presentation, the students continued painting and didn’t stop until the mural was complete.

“I have really enjoyed working on [the mural] each year,” says Joelle Cicak ’16, post-baccalaureate artist-in-residence. “It has been a great opportunity to work with different artists, hear about their experiences and learn about their artistic process firsthand. Art can be a solitary process, so breaking out of that sometimes and working on a project as a community can be very refreshing.”

Other students involved in the project echoed similar sentiments about watching the mural come together at the hands of many artists.

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“The best thing about it was that it was kind of a social event as much as it was an art project,” says Talia Amorosano ’17. “People who didn’t even intend to be involved with the project started helping, and we were all standing around talking to each other if we weren’t painting, so it became a really fun experience, both social and artistic.”

“I’m always reminded of how rewarding it feels to be part of the construction of a large-scale art piece and to witness its evolution,” says Hut. “From the early scattered swatches of white and turquoise paint, to orange, then neon pink, warm grays and black, the wall came together bit by bit. Knowing it’ll be there permanently—well, at least until next year’s mural—is also pretty special.”

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Published December 7, 2016