February 19, 2013
Knox College students collaborated with a professional artist to create a mural that bursts with bright colors and large geometric shapes -- providing a welcome relief from the often-gray days of a Midwestern winter.
Located on the south wall of The Box building near Kellogg and Simmons streets in Galesburg, Illinois, the 18-foot-tall mural is the work of four Knox students, all studio art majors, and professional artist Danielle Kimzey, Knox's artist-in-residence during fall 2012.
"It was very challenging," said Estefania Vazquez, a senior from Galesburg. "It's moved my art in a different way."
Colin Coutts, a junior from Chicago, Illinois, added: "There's something to be said about being able to work on something, literally, Monday through Friday, over almost two-and-a-half months, especially when you're also working collaboratively." (Photo at right: Colin Coutts talks with Danielle Kimzey, who is wearing an orange scarf.)
Taking on such a large-scale project was unlike any previous artistic experience, the students said. To complete the mural, they often had to paint while standing on scaffolding, and the collaborative nature of the project required them to communicate with each other as clearly as they could.
"Language kind of failed us at times, but I think we did end up learning how to discuss painting a little more, as far as movement, shape, and color," Kimzey said. "We had to describe colors so specifically. We ended up making up a lot of words."
Coutts said he hopes viewers of the mural will gain a greater awareness of their surroundings.
"We incorporated a lot of colors to reflect the area," he said. "For some triangles, we incorporated the exact shade of blue that was in the sky at that very moment."
Vazquez said she hopes the vibrant colors in the mural make viewers feel more cheerful, "especially during the winter."
Katie Hansen, a senior from Rochester, Minnesota, added that she enjoyed spending time outdoors while creating art with others.
"You have to just have some kind of goal and be open to change and what's going to happen," she said. "I think that brings a lot of richness to the process and the product."
Kimzey praised the students' contributions.
"They brought great energy every day and enthusiasm and ideas. I learned so much from working with them," she said. "It was magical."
At the mural's dedication, Knox Associate Professor of Art Mark Holmes thanked Dick Blick Art Materials for supporting Knox's artist-in-residency program and for providing supplies for the project. He said he hopes it is just the first of several such murals created by Knox students, who clearly benefited from this experience.
"I think there's a lot to learn for any artist, and in fact for anybody, in the process of working with other people, and particularly in doing creative work with other people," he said. "Just the very process of needing to communicate to other people reveals and exposes all sorts of assumptions in our thinking, and that's really valuable."
Holmes added that working on the mural -- in this case, a piece of public art -- also can help students answer their own questions about the purpose of art.
"Public art plays a lot of different roles," he said. "This (mural) really is about a kind of public invitation to a sense of visual wonder and delight. Any groups of people that can take delight in something together are, in fact, establishing a sense of community."