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Murals of Ella Fitzgerald and Eric Dolphy painted by SCU students.

Murals of Ella Fitzgerald and Eric Dolphy painted by SCU students.

Collaboration Behind the Scenes with the Art Prep Team

SCU students reflect on their experience creating murals for the museum

The de Saisset Museum’s Art Prep team assists in the design implementation of our exhibitions. This year, the students were involved in two mural projects in connection to the exhibition Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection. [Published May 24, 2018]

The Art Prep team at the de Saisset Museum supports the museum’s Exhibitions Project Coordinator in designing, installing, and maintaining temporary and permanent exhibitions. This student team, with their professional staff supervisor, is responsible for matting artworks, framing, installing and de-installing artworks and labels, and designing and implementing exhibition designs, - including painting the murals currently on display in the museum’s foyer.

The following post is guest authored by members of our Art Prep team, who recently created two murals for the exhibition design and programming related to our current exhibition Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection provided by Bank of America’s Art in Our Communities® program.


Celebrating Ella Fitzgerald’s 101st Birthday

Written by: Kaitlin Wheeler (SCU Class of 2019)

Students and staff stand with sheet cake in front of Ella Fitzgerald mural


            “Come to the art building on the second floor.” That was the text that we received from our supervisor Chris Sicat, Exhibitions Project Coordinator at the de Saisset. It was a definite change in scenery and an exciting opportunity as we entered the spacious room. There was a single projector and a massive canvas covered in paint taped onto the wall. Another project inbound. First task, figuring out the projector. This is definitely not as easy as it seems. After about 10 minutes of searching for the right adaptor, fiddling with the cord, and finding the perfect placement of the projector, the image came to life. With the lights off, a grand image of Ella Fitzgerald shined onto the large white canvas. Two Sharpies were handed to Claire Hultquist and me; we already knew what needed to be done.

            We worked quickly and efficiently, outlining the projection to create a sketch of what we would need to paint in the near future. Within about 15 minutes we had the basic design down. Next step, figuring out where and how to paint Ella. Working in the basement of the de Saisset Museum can be a little bit of a tight squeeze with all of our supplies surrounding us, but we managed to clear a space to paint on the ground. Throughout the next two weeks, we used four shades ranging from black to white, labeling the painting to create a methodological approach, and getting to work. Feeling a little like Jackson Pollock, we walked across the canvas, painting inside the lines, adding bits of artistic creative touch here and there.

            As it started coming together, we needed to find a way to allow students from the university to paint on this canvas during our annual art event, College Night. This year, our theme was jazz (titled Swing the Night Away), and we invited students to come learn to swing dance, listen to performances, and participate in art projects. The main project was painting the background of this collaborative mural. Inspired by a painting in La Jolla, known as the “color wall” to some, I decided to break up the background into uniform squares, where each person would be able to choose a color to paint within. Spending an hour or so mixing colors, I developed a bright palette of blues, pinks, yellows, and greens. The night of the event finally arrived, but I needed help. I decided to call my mom into town, Jane Wheeler, a trained mosaic artist in La Jolla. For two summers, we had worked together teaching art classes to children at the Gillispie School. Again, I needed her guidance, so she arrived on the day of the event to help with the execution.

            Swing the Night Away started late in the evening, with a few people filing in through the doors. Right away, they came to the mural to see what it was and how they could help. Halfway through the night, 5-10 people were painting boxes, leaving little work left to complete the background. By the end of the night, students from all across campus, some with artistic backgrounds, others without, had painted a square. It was incredible to see the painting come together with so many hands helping. The more I work at this museum, the more I see the power of art and how it can bring any and all people together to complete a single task. This power is the force of creativity that will never cease to exist because its beauty, attraction, and natural flow will stop anyone in their tracks.


The Art Prep Team reflects.

Other members of the team offer their thoughts to questions asked by Kaitlin Wheeler.


Anna Bauer (SCU Class of 2018)

What were your basic emotions, impressions, and memories of the project?

“It was fun to be able to work collaboratively on such a large mural. It was fun to come in and watch the community finish the background of the painting that we had worked so hard on.”


Why is art important to you?

“Art has always been a part of me being able to relax and really just focus all my energy on one thing. It has always been therapeutic to sit down and paint and draw something that I thought was cool and what others would want to see. So in relation to our mural, we knew that the community was going to finished the rest, but they knew how much that we had done and would take this into consideration when they were painting.”


Claire Hultquist (SCU Class of 2019)

What was your favorite and least favorite experience about painting the mural?

“[My] favorite was seeing it done and having people contribute form the community and making it seem like art brings people together in different ways. I think my least favorite part was probably,… I don’t know, I liked all of it, I don’t think I had a least favorite. Oh I think that the least favorite part was that my artistic ability doesn’t necessarily translate to my expectations, so just being able to bridge that gap. So it was positive to be able to work with more talented artists, but being frustrated with my own talent.”


Why is art important to the community?

“I think art brings people together, it forces you to look at things through another’s perspective, something that you may not have considered before. We were able to apply the things that we learned in our art classes to a larger scale project that impacts the community.”


Marie Kanapeaux (SCU Class of 2019)

How did painting this mural impact you once it was completed?

"This mural was a testament to collaboration. At first, I collaborated with my co-workers. Claire, Kaitlyn, Anna, and I hadn't worked on a project together of this size since last year. It was nice to be together, working on a project that allowed such creative license. Once it was completed, the collaboration had spanned beyond our small team. I particularly loved the imperfections made by some of the community artists who participated in the painting activity during college night. The different brush strokes, drips of multi-colored paint and instances of “coloring outside the lines” are what make this mural so special. The collaboration of this piece left by far the biggest impact on me."


Why is art important for the world?

"Art is important as a universal language for expression. Looking thousands of years into the past, or trying to interpret the future, you can find many variations and interpretations of different perspectives. Art is both extremely personal and easily shared. For these reasons, and many many more, art is important for the world."




See these two jazz murals before they’re gone

In addition to this portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, it was the Art Prep Team who was responsible for painting the title wall mural for  Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection.

The mural took team members Kaitlin, Marie and Anna just over 40 hours to complete.

Both are on view through June 16, 2018.


Murals of Ella Fitzgerald and Eric Dolphy painted by SCU students based on photographs included in the exhibition Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection.



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