Five student artists and two art professors from The University of Texas at Arlington have created a colorful mural in the Science & Engineering Innovation & Research (SEIR) building that captures our unusual moment in history.
The mural depicts colorful, 10-foot-tall head-and-shoulder portraits of individuals wearing masks. It occupies a basement hallway used by masked and gowned staffers of UTA’s North Texas Genome Center, which processes campus COVID-19 tests.
“The mural is targeted at the history of what’s happening in this moment,” says Hallee Turner, a UTA graduate student and teaching assistant. “We know this will eventually pass, but we’ll have a record in this artistic way.”
While the mural feels like a single, integrated piece, no two faces are the same, and each uses a different artistic style. The design is cohesive, but as someone walks down this corridor, he or she will feel as if they were attending a solo show for each artist, says Assistant Professor Yana Payusova.
“This mural gives students ownership of their time here at UT Arlington,” Payusova says. “It was important to come together, as seven artists who have particular styles, and to finish it unified while leaving room for each person to have his or her own individual style be present.”
Leonor Ali, a junior in fine arts with a concentration in painting, says she enjoyed the camaraderie after a long year of isolation.
“Art is still important in these strange times because it can bring a sense of unity,” Ali says. “I hope that months, even years, from now, people passing by will look at the mural and it will remind them that although 2020 was filled with many uncertainties, we were still able to unite through art.”
Carlos Daniel Donjuan, assistant professor in the Art and Art History Department, says working on the mural was an opportunity for students and faculty members to collaborate.
“Students haven’t had a lot of normalcy lately, so this opportunity to get out of the house, out of online classes and to meet with other students to create – we were all really happy to be involved,” he says.
The mural came from a suggestion by the medical director of the North Texas Genome Center, Florence Haseltine, a passionate supporter of the arts.
“White walls are meant to put art on,” she says. “It makes the place human.”