Art Wall

The SCU art community comes together to paint a pond scene complete with lilypads, a frog, and a dragonfly.

Art Wall
View full image. Photo by Joanne Lee
The SCU art community comes together to paint a pond scene complete with lilypads, a frog, and a dragonfly.

While Michelangelo may have laid on his back painting the Sistine Chapel, Professor of Art Kelly Detweiler and crew got quite the workout with a recent big project: a landscape mural in downtown Willow Glen, a few miles south of the Mission Campus. “My FitBit tells me that I did 5 miles up and down ladders,” Detweiler says.

The painting professor first heard about the Santa Clara County Art Commission’s plans to revitalize and bring color to the city last year. Detweiler, though new to the Willow Glen art scene, is no stranger to public works. In 2012, he completed a mural in Davis, California, after being recognized as Silicon Valley’s Artist Laureate.

Raised in Colorado and Southern California, Detweiler seemed to have no trouble drawing on his experience to create a landscape design that both met the building owner’s desires and showcased his expertise. Size, however, was another issue.

“I wanted to include borders but they insisted that we go all the way to the bottom and all the way to the top,” Detweiler says, “I don’t know how many square feet that is but you guys can get a math major to figure that out. It would have probably taken us several weeks.”

With artist Bill Maul, who had previously helped Detweiler in Davis, the professor set to work, spending a whole day just sketching out the design. The duo even borrowed a lift from the building owner to complete as much as possible. It was the following Saturday though, when the magic happened—and a team of Detwiler’s former students joined in for a full day of painting: Kristen (Rieke) Morabito ’11Melina Ramirez ’12Clare Nauman ’11Armando Portillo ’11Charlotte Allen ’11Kathryn Fraser ’10, and Luke Bartel ’96.

“That part was just so enjoyable for me, being able to work with my students,” says Detweiler. “And the idea was not to get their labor but to give them some experience in seeing what something that big takes to get done and knowing a little bit about the preparation and the whole process. If I had just done it by myself, it would have just been work.”

One element of painting in public: You hear from your audience as you work. Neighbors commmented on how much they loved the color and human element the mural brings.

“Even the mortuary across the street really liked it, and they are asking us to do something now,” Detweiler adds, “There was one guy, I think he was drunk. He said he preferred the brown wall. I told him to get lost.”

Detweiler’s mural can be found at 1041 Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen along with his second painting on the side of Starbucks.

Photo by Joanne Lee
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