Kenyon students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to come together for a community art project Saturday, Sept. 29, when Social Board, the Office of Student Engagement, the Department of Studio Art and the Office of Communications co-hosted Fall Fest and Paint-the-Wall Day.
The all-day painting party was the first step in transforming the approximately 575-foot-long, 12-foot-high West Quad construction barrier into a public canvas that will evolve during the two-year construction of the new Kenyon Commons library. In addition to providing painting supplies, organizers of Paint-the-Wall Day arranged for apple cider, live music, pumpkin decorating and other autumnal activities on Ransom Lawn.
The construction barrier was installed over the summer so that demolition of Olin and Chalmers libraries could begin. Initially unpainted, the plywood structure attracted several spontaneous decorations before being primed with a coat of white paint. The formal proposal to turn the wall into an interactive art installation was submitted to the College Collection and Public Art Committee by Claudia Esslinger, professor of art, and Janet Marsden, vice president for communications, and approved by the Committee on Sept. 5.
The art project is intended to celebrate the Kenyon community’s shared values and aspirations. After opening the lobby of Horvitz Hall as a space for anyone to sketch out ideas and mock up possible applications, several art students did “a great job working together to make a base layer design,” Esslinger said. That basic design is what was applied in a “paint by numbers” system on Paint-the-Wall Day.
Oscar Dow ’19 said he was excited to transform the wall “into something the Kenyon community can be proud of.” Dow, a studio art and modern languages and literatures double major, created the design alongside Francis Byrne’20, Kira Lancz ’21 and Bella Hatkoff ’22.
After October Break, phase two of the project will begin. Academic classes, registered student groups and other Kenyon programs will be invited to submit proposals to engage with a section of the wall for a period of time. These smaller projects will add a variety of expression to the wall on top of its base layer, and will change and evolve as the Kenyon Commons library moves toward its expected completion in June 2020.
Once the library is completed and the wall removed, construction will continue for an additional year on the rest of Kenyon’s West Quad project, a hub of interdisciplinary and innovative spaces that includes an academic building for the social sciences and an admissions and financial aid center that will welcome visitors to campus. New facilities for Kenyon’s Department of English are the first part of the West Quad to be completed. Faculty already have moved into a new English office building, and two seminar rooms soon will be available for classes in Keithley House.