Art Students Work Together to Paint Mural on Downtown Alma Building
ALMA — A mural designed to look like a retro-style postcard, reading “Greetings from Alma, Michigan,” now greets visitors driving on Woodworth Avenue near East Superior Street.
That’s thanks to students in Community Mural Painting, a Spring Term course taught by Alma College assistant professor of art and design Jillian Dickson. Working together, the students designed, pitched and painted the mural over the span of just about a week in early May, picking up an interdisciplinary skillset along the way.
The approximately 20-foot by 40-foot mural was designed by Charlayne-Aye Olegario, a junior from Woodhaven. Olegario said she knew she wanted to do something with the theme of “Greetings from Alma,” and decided to go with a retro-style postcard theme, in order to highlight some of the city’s key landmarks within the big, block letters.
“I was thinking, ‘What makes this city Alma? What makes it truly unique and iconic?’” Olegario said. “I included the Dunning Memorial Chapel within the letter A, for example, because I feel it’s a good representation of Alma College. I also tried to pay tribute to the city’s downtown and agriculture industry.”
After the design was made, students used a projector screen — which, because of its brightness, couldn’t be used in the daytime — to create an outline on the building. From that time, they brought out the paint, mechanical lift and scaffolding to complete the mural.
“Everyone had a job to do. Some of us felt more comfortable with the intricate details than others, so they painted the images, whereas some of us are afraid of heights, so those who weren’t did the painting on the very top of the mural,” said Abbey Short, a senior from Monee, Ill. “I felt like we did really well, and it was nice to see everyone contribute in such a visible way.”
Vincent Johnson, an art and design major from Big Rapids, said he had never done a project like this before.
“It’s much more intentional than the art that I normally produce. In this case, we knew what we were putting on the canvas before we painted. We knew that this piece would be critiqued by the public, and not just people in our class. So, it was an interesting, unique experience,” he said.
Dickson said the students learned elements of entrepreneurship, project management, experiential learning, community engagement and service learning through the project.
“This project is exactly the kind of thing we talk about at Alma College, when we talk about learning by doing, thinking critically and serving generously,” Dickson said. “I’m really proud of the students and grateful they were given the opportunity to do this.”
The building on which the mural is painted is owned by Ryan Smith ’06, who also allowed students to paint a mural on the wall just north of the “Greetings from Alma” mural in 2021.
Upon completion of the “Greetings from Alma” mural, students in Dickson’s class got started on their next project — creating an indoor mural that is slated to go on the interior of the Clack Art Center, on Alma College’s campus.