AUM Collaborates with Student Artists to Create Murals in Learning Center


001-Matthew KempEditor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Matthew Kemp, the Writing Student Services Coordinator at the Learning Center at Auburn University at Montgomery, sharing how they teamed up with student artists to create murals in their tutoring space.

A communal coffee pot (or perhaps a Keurig), grammar textbooks, computers, loose leaf paper: things you’ll probably find in writing centers from Texas to Toronto and beyond. Recently in the WCENTER listserv, a question arose regarding ways a new director could decorate his/her center. Of course, there are many ways to answer this question, and many answers were offered: posters, chairs, rugs, paintings, local newspaper articles. However, the suggestion that struck a chord with me was student art. You see, my multidisciplinary center has three large murals painted on our walls, and all of them were designed by students for a Typography course. My center uses these murals as ways to brand ourselves on campus. They represent our mission as well as our values to students, and we absolutely adore them.

AUM LC Mural 2So how did my center come to have these large murals? I can tell you with certainty, it wasn’t originally our plan! A few years ago, my center relocated from a small room in the nursing building to the second floor of our library tower. We filled our new space with the typical items from above. It wasn’t unlike many other centers across the world: computers, funny memes pinned to the walls, pencils, and scratch paper. The idea of murals never entered our minds. That is, until we saw our student phone operator, a graphic design major, working on some homework for her Typography course. The assignment asked students to sketch and alter letters and numbers.  As our center is a multidisciplinary office, the sketches of various letters and numbers seemed to be a perfect way to illustrate what we did. We asked if she thought her class could do a mural in the same vein as her homework. She was delighted at the prospect! So our director contacted the Typography professor and told her our idea.

The professor immediately agreed. She thought it would give her students not only good experience working with clients but also pride in seeing their work become a part of campus. Our office agreed to buy any materials needed, and she agreed her students would paint it. Campus administration had previously told us we could decorate the space as we pleased, so we didn’t even have to fill out forms or requests (this may not be the case at every university; check in with your campus administration about regulations). As our walls were gray, we asked the students to design a black mural. It also needed to incorporate elements of both numbers and text that represented our services. To get a feel for our attitude and work, we linked the students to our campus website and gave them a copy of our mission statement. Continue reading

Writing Center Topographies: Art, Space, and Stature

Geoffrey Middlebrook

Geoffrey Middlebrook

Editor’s note: I met Dr. Geoffrey Middlebrook at IWCA this year and loved hearing about the redesign of his center. I asked him to share a bit about how they partnered with various departments around campus to create a student art gallery in their space!

We who work in or with writing centers know that one of the many enduring challenges is space, or in the words of Nathalie Singh-Corcoran and Amin Emika, “where a center should be located, what a center should look like, what a center should feel like.” Another and related challenge for writing centers is establishing prominence on campus, which can be cultivated through, among other things, intra-institutional relationships (the collection Before and After the Tutorial contains a broad discussion of this topic).

Opening Reception

Opening Reception

In October 2015 I examined the intersection of these spatial and statural concerns at the IWCA Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, with a presentation on a project at the University of Southern California (USC), where I am Director of the Writing Center. It was fortuitous that the IWCA call for proposals highlighted how writing centers might utilize visual arts, allow students to create and connect, and join in partnerships and campus-wide initiatives and activities, for the USC project aggregated all three.

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