ARC murals create snapshots in time

Murals decorate the walls of two gyms in the ARC on Peabody Drive in Champaign. The murals depict images of students and campus life. Erica Magda

Murals decorate the walls of two gyms in the ARC on Peabody Drive in Champaign. The murals depict images of students and campus life. Erica Magda

By Kelly Gustafson

Although Andres Lopez will graduate in May, a part of him will always stay at the Activities and Recreation Center. A photograph of Lopez, senior in LAS, is just one of 24 photographs at the ARC that were blown up and used to create murals of campus life.

“I felt really proud when I first heard of it,” Lopez said.

During the construction of the ARC, Erik Riha and Tony Clements collaborated on the idea of creating murals that would depict all aspects of student life on campus. Riha, lead assistant director for marketing of the ARC, said he started the mock-ups of the photos in July.

“We didn’t want it to be all about sports; we wanted to make sure there were a variety of pictures,” Riha said.

The photo of Lopez was taken last year during a Spanish class.

Similar photos were taken from the Public Affairs photo library to encompass the variety of activities in which students are involved.

“We have pictures from La Casa and the Black Chorus group, scenes from the Quad, pictures of a basketball game at Assembly Hall and scenes from libraries as well,” said Riha.

There are nearly 2,200 square feet of murals divided between the two gymnasiums at the new facility. Despite their size, the murals were set up in about five days by a small team of installers.

“The murals are not actually painted,” Riha said. “They are simply giant photos that are printed on big sheets and stuck to the wall with an adhesive vinyl material.”

Haley Deitch, sophomore in Media, said she noticed the murals when she runs on the track at the ARC.

“I like them because they spice up an otherwise plain workout area,” she said. “Also, they’re not just pictures of people working out.”

The murals not only add life and dimension to the gymnasiums, they also carry an important message.

“Our university is very inclusive, and there really is a place for everyone,” he said. “Future students and parents that take tours of the ARC will realize what it has to offer.”

Deitch said she thinks more buildings and facilities on campus could use similar mural “face lifts”.

“I think it’d be a good idea to add murals to CRCE because otherwise (the walls) are very plain to stare at while working out,” she added.

Riha said he had the installers blend key words from the University mission statement into the murals to reinforce those ideas.

“The words, such as ‘engagement’ and ‘diversity’, are subtle but I would hope that it’s another way we can get the University philosophy across to students,” Riha added.

Though not famous by any means, Lopez said he has been recognized because of the mural.

“All of my friends recognized me and someone from the dorms spotted me and said ‘You’re from the ARC!'” Lopez said.

Thousands of students graduate each year and hope they have made an impact in University life. For Lopez, the imprint will be seen for years to come.