Four student-painted murals showcasing the underrepresented at the University of Iowa will soon be painted over.
On Sunday, students gathered in the IMU Hubbard Commons for a decommissioning ceremony to celebrate the murals located in the outdoor pedestrian tunnels behind the IMU. The murals will be whited-out at the beginning of next month.
The temporary murals were part of an art initiative by UI Student Government that aimed to highlight undergraduate artwork on campus. The four murals highlight different identities on the UI campus: the Latinx community, the LGBTQ+ community, the Pakistani community, and the nine black fraternities’ and sororities’ — Divine 9 — community. The decommissioning ceremony was organized by the Multicultural Greek Council.
“It’s a memorial for the effort, the dedication, and the sweat and tears the artist put into this project,” said Jesus Rasgado, the vice president of finance & operations of the Multicultural Greek Council.
The outdoor murals were created as a part of a pilot program that originally intended to cycle through different mural designs on new themes each year. The murals were painted in the outdoor tunnels, owned by CRANDIC Railway, however UISG did not have permission to paint on the CRANDIC owned tunnels and now the murals have to be painted over.
“The tunnels are not the best outdoor place to have murals that embody such amazing community representation,” UISG Sen. Alexia Sánchez said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “When the pilot program started, the tunnels were one of a few places that met the criteria for outdoor art, but now that it is in its third year, we believe we can find better spaces for art to be seen and respected.”
Sánchez helped initially launch the public-art initiative.
Earlier this year, instances of graffiti defacing some of the murals were reported. With the incidents of vandalism in mind as well as the natural wear and tear on the murals, UISG is looking into more sustainable and permanent site to display undergraduate art on campus in place of the outdoor murals.
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“Art should be taken care of in an open location that can continue to be seen and cherished by the Iowa City community. We are able to learn from past mistakes and are able to bring in improvements to the program,” Sánchez said. “I have the intention of continuing the project through UISG, because I know how powerful art is and what it can bring to a community.”
Some of the alternative options UISG is looking into for displaying undergraduate art in the future include indoor murals in the IMU and potential other locations on campus that may have outdoor space to use.
One of the UISG’s 2018-19 student life platform initiatives is to collaborate with on-campus partners and local businesses to feature student artwork to celebrate student artists and create a space for their work to be accessible to as many people as possible.
Kimberly Castillo, one of the artists who helped create the mural honoring Latinx heritage, said she understands why UISG is looking for alternative options to display art, but she thinks it’s important that the university continue to display public art.
“I think it’s something that the university should continue and shouldn’t let this one mishap stop it from continuing,” she said. “I think it was a great step toward inclusivity on campus.”