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CCU Atheneum: Working on a mural depicting Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” with Yorick's skull.
Working on a mural depicting Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” with Yorick's skull.

Art students take their work outside

by Alexandra Morris
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Along the inside walls of the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts building at Coastal Carolina University, artists regularly showcase their work for passersby to see. But from the outside, no one would know of the many varied talents of our visual arts students – until now.

Taught by Brian “Cat” Taylor, a new class called Public Art was offered to CCU students for the first time this past Maymester. Students are applying what they have learned to the outside of the classroom – literally. “We are highlighting the Edwards building by painting outside murals that creatively represent the college’s departments,” says Taylor.

Taylor and his five students can be seen with ladders and long paint rollers working on the walls of an HVAC building behind the Edwards College and one of its back parking lots. A total of five walls are being painted, and the artwork includes Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “Vitruvian Man,” one of Piet Mondrian’s geometric abstractions, Hamlet with Yorick’s skull, Miles Davis playing jazz and a depiction of the Greek muses.

“I specialize in this type of art because I have a past with graffiti and public art,” says Taylor. “It’s about what the people want to see, and this is a class that Dr. Arne Flaten and I planned.”

Flaten, chair of the Department of Visual Arts at CCU, says this new class was an opportunity for students to do something exciting, utilize a certain skill set of one of the department’s professors, and really change the back area of Edwards for the entire University to enjoy.

“This is the first time we are doing something like this on campus, and the feedback has been great,” says Flaten. “The art is something that really does announce what we do in the humanities building.”

Flaten says Public Art may become a regular class every year for Maymester, a time when campus is quieter and the students are more free to work outside.

Zoe Johnson, a graphic design student, says she would rather be outside than be in the classroom. She tells about the process: “Each one took about a week,” says Johnson. “We project the image onto the wall first. Then, even after the image is done, there are touch-ups and eventually a clear UV protectant coat to preserve the paint.”

The final third of the “Muses” wall was finished by the students of the Summer Arts Academy in June. This was the last mural to be completed.

Barbara Streeter, another student in the class and the owner of a blown glass studio called Conway Glass, says she will be incorporating what she learned in class for her own artistic endeavors. “I’ve learned that mural painting takes a lot of planning and physical fitness, but I am planning on painting one on the firewall in my studio and will use some of the techniques I’ve learned,” Streeter says.

It isn’t only the art department that appreciates the change in scenery. Paula Gwaltney, an administrative specialist in the music department says, “I think the murals are awesome. They bring a lot of character to the building and show off the talent of our campus.”

And here’s the truth: “The sweat was worth it,” says Taylor. “Each artworkl went through a long process of approval and was distinctly planned based on the wall shape and the image. So we wouldn’t call it decorating; it isn’t cake.”


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