Female student works on mural with pain brush in hand.

Spartans Transform Construction Site into a Work of Art

Female student (Kelsey) with paint brush working on mural of Max Beckmann.

Kelsey working on her mural of Max Beckmann. Click on the photo to see more photos on the SJSU Facebook photo album.

By Michelle Terris, Teresa Ruiz and Gale Antokal
Photos by Elena Polanco

It’s hard to miss the obtrusive blue walls erected to help close off parts of construction as SJSU prepares for a newly upgraded Student Union. While most passers-by see only painted plywood, a few creative Spartans saw a blank canvas.

With guidance and inspiration from Art and Art History Associate Professor Gale Antokal, a club on campus called The Dirty Brushes has begun painting murals of historic and contemporary artists’ self-portraits.

“This project represents a vital collaboration between Art and Art History and Visual Culture areas,” said Antokal. “It celebrates the continuity of past and present by showcasing artist self-portraits of the past five hundred years.” The faces include those of Jan Van Eyck, Michelangelo, Mary Cassatt, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The group, working with permission as well as a small grant from the Student Union, is currently working on 25 to 30 portraits on the walls near the Music and Art Buildings and the Student Union. The project will ultimately extend to the walls near 7th Street.

“We felt this was a project that truly supports the Student Union’s mission to promote social, recreational, cultural and educational development at SJSU. It is also a unique opportunity to visibly showcase the artistic and creative talent of our students,” said Student Union Executive Director Cathy Busalacchi.

Other art students will also be involved in the project. Students from art history 101 classes provided the initial 50 suggested self-portrait images for the project and will develop a written catalogue for the portraits selected by the Dirty Brushes. The portrait catalogue will be used on the department and college website and in a brochure for recruiting from local high schools with Advanced Placement art programs.

Art 100W classes, a class with students from a variety of art and design majors, will develop an electronic public interface. These students plan to work with a company that facilitates guided cell phone tours for museums, universities and non-profit arts organizations throughout the country. Students, faculty, and the community will be able to stand in front of the murals and use their phones to learn more about each work.

Antokal said the mural will be in place for approximately two years, beginning mid-spring 2011, with the goal of bringing significant attention to the college’s programs. Students and the community are welcome to watch the artists work, typically on Fridays and weekends.

Learn more about the project on the SJSU Art and Design website at http://ad.sjsu.edu/whatsup/