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The tiger mural painted by Pittsburg State University students on the south side of the Main Street Axe Company's store. The mural was painted as a part of a mural painting class offered at by the art department. Alyssa Tyler

Art class designs and paints downtown mural

The tiger mural painted by Pittsburg State University students on the south side of the Main Street Axe Company’s store. The mural was painted as a part of a mural painting class offered at by the art department. Alyssa Tyler

Pittsburg has a new art feature in the form of a large tiger mural recently installed downtown by members of a PSU art elective.

The mural was the project of students in ART 542: Mural Painting, an art elective course held in the fall 2021 semester. The course was taught by James Oliver, chair of the art department, and contained nine students. The course is held approximately every four to five semesters.

“For the mural that is now downtown on the side of the Main Street Axe Company, the design process was initially garnering funding,” Oliver said. “The funding came from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas Future Fund Giving Circle for materials. That happened actually about a semester and a half before the course, and then the design process within the grant was structured so that the students were able to work with the client. We worked with Crawford County Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce to find a business that had a building and a wall that would be appropriate for the mural. Once we located a building owner that was willing to work with us, the design process commenced.

Students in the class were part of the process from beginning to end, from the grant writing needed to fund a large-scale mural project to the negotiations about design to the literal painting of the mural itself.

“Initially the students met with the building owner,” Oliver said. “They discussed and asked questions about what their hopes were for the mural, what they wanted to have included, what they didn’t want to have included, and then the students went away from that meeting with lots of notes to begin designing. Each student designed two possible murals knowing the scale. The building owner wanted the mural to run the full height of the building, so that was about 29 feet, and they wanted it to be roughly 12 feet wide. About two to three weeks later we came back to the building owner with designs, including mock-ups of what it would look like on the side of the building. A couple weeks later the students had revisions, and then the building owner chose the mural that is downtown now.”

Amber Smith, graduate student in English, was one of the students responsible for the application of the mural.

“We worked in panels,” Smith said. “We projected portions of the image onto each panel, kind of like traced them out. Then after that we started laying out paint on each one. It took a while. We never saw it actually together until it was on the building because it was so large. We would kind of line up the individual panels to try and make sure everything matched. It took a couple weeks to get all the paint and everything finished.”

Anyone interested in learning more about available art programs at PSU can either visit the art department’s page on the university website (pittstate.edu), or they can visit the main art department office in 101 Porter Hall.

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