Students Give Cawein Gallery Entrance a Makeover

The entrance of Pacific University's Kathrin Cawein Gallery of Art recently received a makeover, thanks to a group of art students, a visiting artist's vision and an Elise Elliott Undergraduate Experience Enrichment grant.

About 35 students, led by senior Emily Miller, participated in a project to create tile motifs for a collective mural around the gallery's entrance door that they later installed on Thursday, Oct. 22 as part of a community barbecue to celebrate the new addition.

The Cawein Gallery, home to several rotating exhibitions each academic year, is conspicuously located on the southeast corner of Scott Hall. The new mural borders the gallery entry, making for a more prominent gallery presence near the heart of campus.

Under the direction of visiting artist Bernhard Masterson, students spent the past two months making nature-themed art that reflects their individual experiences at Pacific or their respective hometowns.

Terry O'Day, art professor and project lead, said the pre-determined theme (nature) and color scheme unify the mural, but that the personalization of each tile by participating students generates a collective sense of ownership and community.

The project began last March with O'Day, Miller and Masterson developing the design plan. Masterson provided the tile substrate and clay/plaster materials to be used in the project, and then led a tile-making workshop for students in a pair of Studio Arts Basic Design courses, while Miller coordinated participation from both course students and members of the university's Art Club.

Consistent with the university's emphasis on environmental sustainability, the materials used in the project were minimally processed, locally sourced and recyclable. Students prepared the tile boards, carved the plaster reliefs, painted the finished designs, and installed the mural.

O'Day praised Miller for managing the ambitious endeavor. "Emily brought together all of the necessary parties to make this happen, including the Art Placement Committee, gallery director, Facilities Management, the visiting artist, classroom faculty, the Art Club and other participating students. She really did an outstanding job."

Miller said Masterson's expertise with natural building materials was essential, as was the generosity and flexibility of the two course instructors, Junko Iijima and Kendra Larson, in whose classes the majority of the tiles were made.

"The process was different from traditional ceramics, and it was great for the students and faculty to try something new," Miller said.

Miller, an Art major who transferred to Pacific last fall, came up with the idea to increase the gallery's visibility after talking to other students. "I thought a mural would be a great way to draw attention to the gallery," she said. The project satisfies her Civic Engagement cornerstone requirement, which all Pacific undergraduate students must fulfill, and the mural is believed to be the first campus art project to do so.

"By working as a group, we created something so much more meaningful than any mural I could have created on my own," Miller said. "It was an amazing experience to work together with so many other students to create a lasting, large-scale, public work of art on campus. There is a real feeling of accomplishment in having your art shared with the whole campus in this way."

O'Day concurred. "Although the finished mural is a wonderful addition to campus and important in the way of heightening awareness of the gallery, much of the benefit of this project is derived from our students working together for a common cause."

Oct. 28, 2015