CCU class captures classics in outdoor murals at Edwards College

Shakespeare and other art classics have been captured in colorful murals to create a unique calling card for the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts at Coastal Carolina University.

Students in Cat Taylor’s class for public art have turned the blank, brick walls surrounding the college’s HVAC system into a head-turning gallery that has passers-by stopping to take a second look. Two of the finished walls facing Chanticleer Drive West represent classic Mondrian compositions, while other parts of the area reveal Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Miles Davis on trumpet and Hamlet — complete with Yorick’s skull from Act 5 Scene 1.

“We get this all day long,” said Taylor, as two students stared at Vitruvian Man from a distance before walking to the wall for a longer, up-close inspection. “I told the students, ‘You guys are going to be rock stars.’ ”

The concept for the murals was developed between Taylor and Arne Flaten, chair of CCU’s visual arts department. Flaten said he had been parking close to the uninspired enclosure for more than a decade when he got the mural idea and took it to Taylor to develop as a class. The project came together fairly quickly after that, he said

“We were excited at the notion of all the imagery,” Flaten said. “It announces that this is what we do here.”

The project was offered in a Maymester class where students earn three credits, but the work is squeezed into four weeks. The process works best in a compressed period of time, when the weather is nice and not too rainy – “It’s the sweet spot,” Flaten said.

The class has five students, who have braved heat and heights for their art. On June 3, they prepared the last wall, which faces a wooded area that still was being cleared of foliage and limbs. They used thick rollers to apply the first of two coats of paint necessary before an image can be projected onto the wall that night. The images are traced and painted, with a final clear coat at the end for protection.

“It’s exhausting, but I love it,” said Barbara Streeter, who is pursuing an art studio degree. “It’s fun to see people’s reactions, and it’s rare you get to have your work seen by so many people.”

Taylor picks images from the public domain and uses Photoshop to size them for the appropriate wall. Some have to be reworked and projected onto the walls in stages to accommodate various challenges, including large walls — some 86 feet long — and how the bricks align with the ground. He said an earlier attempt at painting sheet music had to be scrapped because of sloping musical scales, and they were awaiting approval to paint Apollo and the Muses on the last wall.

“These students have been amazing,” said Taylor, who said the finished murals had been done in 12 days. “They stay late and keep working not because I ask them to, but because they are not satisfied.”

Flaten said the project has been supported by administration all the way, and the class’ success should spur a desire for public art on campus and around the Grand Strand.

“The feedback has been overwhelming,” Flaten said. “They’ve done something remarkable, and I think now that anybody would say, ‘Wow — where else can we do this?’ ”