Editor’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.
So 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