An eight-foot wall surrounded the construction site of the Student Union Renovation and Expansion Project when it began in September 2010. While hundreds of plywood panels comprising the wall were painted blue to make the obtrusive safety measure more aesthetically pleasing, San Jose State students wanted more—something better than blue.
My students and I saw an opportunity to create a public art piece: transforming the blue wall into a large-scale mural. The project known as “Better Than Blue” began in April 2011 with a small grant from the Student Union.
More than 100 art and art history students—part of the Dirty Brushes Club (named by Erin Salazar, ’10 Pictorial Art)—were involved in painting more than 45 “self-portraits” of a diverse selection of famous artists. The project represents a vital collaboration between art and art history and visual culture. It celebrates the continuity of past and present by showcasing artist self-portraits of the past 500 years.
The portrait panels salvaged from the construction fence and now on display at the Ramiro Compean and Lupe Diaz Compean Student Union represent the creative and artistic spirit of San Jose State.