IU Office of the Bicentennial commissions new murals on Bloomington, Kokomo campuses

By Brittany Terwilliger

The Indiana University Office of the Bicentennial has commissioned two new mural projects for the Bloomington campus, to be installed in Wright Quad and Presidents Hall, as part of the Bicentennial Heritage Preservation and Campus Beautification project. Additionally, it is supporting the installation of the first regional campus history mural at IU Kokomo.

"These murals will creatively and artistically represent Indiana University's twin fundamental missions: the education we provide our students and the world-changing research we pursue," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "In doing so, they will also serve as enduring, stately and impressive reminders of IU's extraordinary growth over two centuries into one of the great public research universities of the world, one that offers the promise of a better life for all who enter its gates."

The new five-panel Wright Quad mural will be created by Caleb Weintraub, associate professor of painting in the IU School of Art, Architecture + Design. Weintraub has exhibited nationally and internationally, and he is known for his innovative techniques. In this case, his process is mediated by technology.

"Rather than mashing imagery and information together through drawing or an iterative painting practice, I am leveraging several computer programs to conceive of and prepare all the source materials for my paintings," Weintraub said. "This kind of mural is not a whimsical narrative or composition of abstract motifs; it is a collection of references including noteworthy individuals, architectural works and references to programming. The fact that the content is predetermined makes the project of composing the work somewhat akin to putting together a puzzle. By using digital software, I can more easily shuffle parts, reorganize and make regular changes throughout the planning process without causing any damage to an original image."

Painting for the first of the five panels has already begun. The mural will be installed at the north end of the Wright Quad dining hall, joining the existing seven murals that depict IU Bloomington's history from 1820 through 1998. The new mural will fill the gap in the history, from 1998 to 2020, and will feature historical moments suggested by the university historian, the IU Bloomington campus historian, the campus history committee and senior members of the university.

The Presidents Hall murals will be created by Bonnie Sklarski, professor emerita in the IU School of Art, Architecture + Design. Sklarski joined the faculty in 1970 and has an extensive exhibition record and reputation in New York City and Philadelphia. Her passion for observational painting has enabled her to work en plein air throughout the world and received the Distinguished Teaching Award for introducing Anatomy for the Artist to what was then the IU School of Art.

The Presidents Hall murals will feature two allegorical paintings representing the IU motto, "Lux et Veritas" (light and truth). They will hang on the north wall of Presidents Hall, in Franklin Hall, joining the gallery of portraits of IU's past presidents.

"The preparatory sketches for the paintings have been in progress for a year," Sklarski said. "There are over 40 allegorical figures representing the psychological forces that still drive human yearning and conduct in our technocratic age. They are set in landscapes embodying the greatest forces of nature that tame the ego and remind us of the mystery that permeates our lives. The lengthy sketching process allows me to examine illusive inner-directed first-ideas and frees my mind/hand for the final painting."

The Wright Quad and Presidents Hall murals will be unveiled on Founders Day, Jan. 20, 2020, as part of the IU Bicentennial celebration.

Indiana University Kokomo is also instituting a mural project to honor the IU Bicentennial and to commemorate the Kokomo campus's 75th anniversary in 2020.

"In order to form a sense of connection and due to the nonresidential nature of the campus, public art is a subtle but vital part of creating a campus environment that celebrates our history, our culture and our diverse community," IU Kokomo Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said. "This mural provides a new opportunity to experience the essence of IU Kokomo and, in a broader sense, what makes us a distinct but interconnected part of Indiana University."

IU Kokomo received initial funding for their mural project from the Office of the Bicentennial and will secure matching funds to complete the project. Once an artist is identified to lead this project, completion and installation of the mural in the new Student Activities and Events Center building is expected in fall 2020.

Indiana University was founded on Jan. 20, 1820, making it one of the oldest public universities in the nation. To celebrate its bicentennial, IU has developed a multiyear, multicampus program that will recognize and chronicle IU history, showcase the university's significant contributions to the world, and set a course for the next century. For more information about the bicentennial program, visit 200.iu.edu.

The Office of the Bicentennial also recently named 25 Bicentennial Professors, whose appointments were approved by the IU Board of Trustees at its December meeting.

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