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New mural is an exercise in color, symbols

October  14, 2011

The new mural on 6th Avenue. (Augustana Photo Bureau/Daisy Hoang)

Students and the community may have noticed a brighter look to the area around the Art Studios on 6th Ave. A new mural there is the work of art Professor Peter Xiao and his students, who painted the Rhythms of Diversity mural on 38th street in 2009.

The symbols in the mural stand for disciplines at Augustana, he said. The work is an exercise of color and corresponds basic colors to basic shapes.

Dr. Xiao said the idea for a mural for the art studios building first came from department secretary Sue Radtke. "Everyone agreed that that corner of the campus looked pretty deserted and bare," he said.

"I think working with space is fun and putting colors on walls is greater fun. So, to have that fun, I built into my 2011 summer course material for drawing and painting classes’ assignments for mural designs again, one for the Botanical Center of Rock Island upon their request, another for this retaining wall round the art building along 6th Avenue as it turns south into 35th Street.

"I had a total of six summer students. We initially worked on simple proposition of presenting basic geometric shapes of triangle, sphere, square and their combinations, matching them to primary hues of yellow (triangle), red (square) and blue (sphere), showing value and intensity contrasts, complementary and analogous schemes and the spectrum, literally color exercises in a string of upright square panels along the sloping hillside.

"Students worked on color strips in color and revised and updated them as we went along. Because the color and shape theme first started the sequence on the east side, we repeated the theme spelling out the word ART on the west end by the building’s north entrance.

"Why academic symbols? Toward the end of summer and egged on by student designers who preferred more variety, I morphed the geometric shapes into signs for representative art media for the other side of the same entrance, which began the subsequent process of breaking out of my earlier geometric constraint. The passing-on of several colleagues such as Mike Nolan and Mel Peterson in the spring and summer had something to do with my letting go the purist interest to correlate shapes and colors."

Dr. Xiao said that the project evolved this fall as a collective effort by his Painting 1 class. Students and and department chairs came up with signs that stood for one or a compilation of disciplines.

The initial summer student designers were Asta Gustafson, Cynthia Reade, Aminata Soumah and Tracy Reagan (facilities staff) in Painting 1, Kimberly Olson and Kyle Pankow in Drawing 1. ("Kyle was chiefly responsible for trying to reach the limit of shape combinations," he said.)

The 13 (now 12) students in 211 this fall painted the mural on the street as part of their in class tasks. They are Jesse Alexander, Taylor Banach, Adrielle L Canda, Cody Heche, Jillian Kapp, Katherine Lundell, Christopher Madison, Harrison Metcalf, Samantha Paddock, Jacquelyn Schmidt, Alyssa Wales and Alexander Welser.

"Some of them, Jesse, for instance, made new on-site suggestions that were incorporated into the mural," Professor Xiao said. "Professors Kathy Jakielski, Adam Kaul and Michael Wolf responded to my email request and contributed ideas for disciplinary signs. Five members of the student Artisans overseen by my colleague Rowen Schussheim-Anderson helped trace the design one Monday evening: Maggie Williams, Sarah Frachery, Kelly McCurry, Michelle Van de Water and Kaylee Wagner.

"A major helper for all kinds of needs during this and our last mural is Eric Mathis, our unsung hero and capable studio technician. And I would like to thank the support from my department chair Megan Quinn and all my colleagues in art."