Murals share art students' talents with the community

Library mural

Artists Rebekka VanSant and Julie Hawkins put finishing touches on the Radford Public Library mural.

A new program this semester at Radford University is Art for Public Spaces, which encourages students to use art to communicate with community and the world around them. Instead of working exclusively in studios and galleries, students in Art for Public Spaces are tacking projects in the city of Radford and beyond, sharing their talents with the community.

The course was designed as part of RU's Scholar-Citizen Initiative, which seeks to promote a teaching and learning culture in which students apply their academic skills, knowledge and training in the public field, said Professor Halide Salam, instructor for the course and a faculty member in the RU Department of Art. "Students are using their discipline to address issues that are an integral part of their social community."

One recently completed project is a mural at the Radford Public Library. Art students Rebekka VanSant, Whitley Rogers and Hallie Hawkins, art director Julie Hawkins and project manager Kelli Billips contributed to the mural, which celebrates the history of Radford and emphasizes pride in the local community.

The student artists presented their work to community members at a reception in the city library on Monday to mark the project's completion and introduce the piece in one of Radford's most visible public spaces.

Art for Public Spaces is now taking on its next challenge: a mural made from shoes. The project was inspired by a work in the church of Santo Nino in Chimayo, New Mexico, that Salam had the opportunity to visit. The mural there was constructed with shoes donated by pilgrims and local residents. Students from Art for Public Spaces will use shoes donated by Highlanders and community members as art material to create a mural at Radford's Belle Heth Elementary School.

Unlike paint or clay, "found objects" such as shoes are not typically considered art material, Salam said. "The shoe is a loaded image. It qualifies the wearer in terms of taste, age and economics. We are taking shoes from campus, the local community and the school to create a mural that will unite these three entities through a visual form."

Members of the RU campus community can donate shoes at special collection boxes at the Hurlburt Student Center through Wednesday, March 6, after which the student artists will begin working on the mural.

Feb 26, 2013
Dan Waidelich
(540) 831-7749