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Aug 31, 2021 | News

Coloring Baldwin City

mural header

In 2019, the interterm course Coloring Our World, taught by Dean of Students Cassy Bailey, included a final project of designing a mural.

“The students and their energy are the best part of teaching any course,” Dr. Bailey said. “Also, I loved seeing their creativity. For students who do not consider themselves to be an artist, they have so much ability and appreciation for color and image. It is amazing how much color impacts our world, mood, and media. I loved going on this learning journey with them.”

Interterm courses at Baker are a unique experience for students, allowing them to enroll in one-of-a-kind classes, internships, and travel abroad opportunities. The interterm period is three weeks between the winter break and start of the spring semester.

“Interterm is by far one of the coolest aspects of Baker and really speaks to the liberal arts,” Bailey said. “Having the opportunity to step outside of your major and comfort zone is so important to our growth and development. And 13 days is a perfect time period to do a deep dive, but not a total commitment.”

At the end of Bailey’s course, students were encouraged to present their mural designs to the Baldwin City Community Mural Project. The Baker Family Tree, designed by Elaena Steffen, who is now a junior, was the chosen design.

“The idea behind this mural was a Baker family tree. It symbolizes that Baker is not just a college, not just a community, but a family,” Steffen said. “As you look closer, you can see that each leaf is used to symbolize something important to our Baker family. All of which have such rich history. This family tree depicts everything Baker stands for and loves.”

This past spring, construction on the mural began, led by Jeannette Blackmar, executive director of the Lumberyard Arts Center, and Wendy Conover, executive director of the Baldwin City Library. Art apprentices included Steffen, and Baldwin High School graduates Ella Conover and Jewel Marsh. The project’s lead artist was Lisa Slavin.

At its core, the mural program emphasizes community engagement and collaboration. All mural projects seek community involvement and offer community painting days. Dr. Frank Perez, Baker University director of bands, was among the community members who contributed to the mural.

“We have participated in three murals, and we have found great joy in sharing our time and talent with our community,” Perez said. “Our kids have enjoyed ‘leaving their mark.’ They feel great pride in our town and are thrilled that they can walk by and see their contributions each time that they look at a mural. It is absolutely wonderful how this project has brought community members together not only in positive and collaborative way to strengthen community relationships but also to beautify our town.”

After two years of planning, the Baker Family Tree mural was unveiled during a ribbon cutting event on August 20 hosted by the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce. The mural is located on the Baker facilities building, at 702 Seventh Street.

Since 2016, the project has completed eight murals in downtown Baldwin City, with assistance from the City of Baldwin City, the Lumberyard Arts Center, the Maple Leaf Festival Committee, and the Douglas County Community Foundation.

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