Campus wall to become canvas

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College students have long commented on the empty back wall of the Wright Memorial Theater, a 58-by-53-foot white space facing a parking lot off of Shannon Street.
But if the efforts of recent graduate Kate Lupo pay off, the wall will soon get a makeover in the form of an environmentally-themed mural — a reproduction of a set of 16 prints by Vermont artist and Middlebury College alumna Sabra Field, called ‘Cosmic Geometry.’
In an email, the art history major described her moment of inspiration, which arrived last September as she walked up the driveway facing the large blank wall.
“I had passed it so many times but this time, I was able to look at the wall in a whole new way. I had this amazing moment of realization when I saw this huge wall in front of me not as a wall, but as a canvas.”
After that, things fell into place, and Lupo decided that the ideal artist for the mural would be Sabra Field, both because of her connection to the college and Vermont and because of her environmentally themed work. That month, Lupo took her proposal, along with a photo-shopped image of Field’s prints on the wall, to college president Ron Liebowitz.
“Without skipping a beat, he said, ‘OK, do you want me to call her?’” wrote Lupo. “I was thrilled!”
Since then, the project has taken significant jumps toward fruition. Over the past ten months, Lupo has gotten the support of Sabra Field and the approval of the town’s Design Advisory Committee and the college’s Council for Art in Public Places (CAPP). She has also enlisted the New York-based Colossal Media Group to paint the mural.
All that remains now is to raise the funds to cover travel, labor and material costs — Lupo said she is hoping to raise around $20,000 this summer.
Part of this cost could be covered by a $5,000 Brighter Planet grant, part of a monthly grant program that the company runs to fund grassroots environmental projects. The funds are allocated based on voting from the public.
At press time, the project was a close second on the website, trailing Roots of Change Cooperativa, a proposed San Antonio, Texas, sustainable community center, by only two votes.
Though Lupo is traveling, fellow Middlebury College graduate Alex Benepe is handling the fund-raising efforts in her absence.
“(The wall) is begging for a mural. It’s been white for a really long time,” said Benepe.
The two hope that they can assemble the funds in time to paint the mural in the late summer or early fall.
Lupo had originally envisioned using another of Field’s prints, one that would have been more directly centered around wind energy — her senior thesis also focused on the aesthetics of wind energy from the Dutch Golden Age to the present.
But after some discussion, she and those working on the project with her settled on ‘Cosmic Geometry,’ a copy of which Field had donated to the college upon its completion two years ago. This choice, said Lupo, is not as much an endorsement of a specific environmental effort. Instead, it is a broader reminder that humans are intimately connected to the world around us.
The work’s 16 separate images juggle micro and macro views of the world, highlighting the echoes and connections among them.
“All throughout human existence, we’ve been intuiting these connections,” said Field in a Tuesday interview. “(It) can be as vast as the branching of the Ganges delta or the leaves of a squash plant from my garden.”
For Field, who works out of her studio in East Barnard, technology has allowed us to see and understand more of these “reflectafors,” which she defines on her website, www.sabrafield.com, as “similarities between different phenomena at various scales.”
“The reflectafors in this suite, and many, many more which I’ve experienced over a lifetime of looking, thinking and drawing lead me to the conclusion that everything is part of everything, or, more simply put, ‘all is one,’” writes Field in an explanation of ‘Cosmic Geometry’ on her website.
It took some time for the individual pieces of the work to come together. Though the actual prints were finished two years ago, Field said that the process from conception to creation had taken longer.
“It’s taken me about 55 years, thinking about it,” said Field.
And though she will be glad to see one of her prints reproduced on a wall at her alma mater and has been a steady supporter of the project since Lupo approached her about it, Field said that she was ready to move on — after all those years of working on ‘Cosmic Geometry,’ she is ready to look forward to other works.
Lupo hopes that this mural will be the beginning of an even larger project. It will be the second environmentally themed mural that Lupo has orchestrated — the first was last summer, a 100-foot work painted on a wall at her sister’s high school in Weston, Conn. In the future, she plans to expand the campaign onto a national scale, creating environmentally themed murals in schools across the country.
Lupo envisioned the murals as an echo of the Works Progress Administration public artworks commissioned during the Great Depression. She hopes to create environmental murals in schools across the country in order to teach students the values of sustainability through art.
“I am most interested in how art can help better society, help inspire people, illuminate problems, spur change,” wrote Lupo.
“The Middlebury mural is all about looking at how art can help propel the environmental movement and spur important conversations at the college and beyond,” she said.
To vote for the Middlebury College Mural Project $5,000 grant, visit http://projectfund.brighterplanet.com. The current month’s voting period will end June 15.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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