Student winners announced for WAC Mural Contest

By Ariana Portalatin, Campus Editor

Junior art and art history major Melanie Vazquez never painted murals before entering Columbia’s second WAC Mural Contest.

Encouraged to enter by a professor in the Art and Art History Department, Vazquez reflected on her Mexican Heritage to inspire a mural that was announced April 27 as the first place winner.

“I’m still in shock,” Vazquez said. “I didn’t expect to come out winning first, but I’m happy.”

Her mural will be installed on the south-facing wall of the 623 S. Wabash Ave. Building, currently exhibiting last year’s student winner, former senior design major Andrea Dunn. It will be displayed for six months before being replaced by this year’s second place winner Shelby Gahm.

The college community voted on ten different student mural ideas, according to Meg Duguid, director of Exhibitions in the Department of Exhibition and Performance Spaces and adjunct professor in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department.

“The proposals this year fall outside of what we often think of as street art,” Dugiud said. “It’s great to have a diversity of projects throughout the WAC.”

Vazquez said her family and the divisive political climate inspired her mural.

“My work’s not usually political, but right now with politics, everyone’s getting so wrapped up in it,” Vazquez said. “They forget you need to take a step back and remind yourself about your culture and heritage.

 Gahm, a senior art and art history major, said she had also never painted a mural before this contest but rather paints canvases.

“The whole idea of [my mural] is  flesh tone and neon greens, like toxic sludge,” Gahm said. “It was based [on] another painting I had done about people being able to [be] loving but they can also not be so loving.”

The WAC murals provide a sense of community to the South Loop, according to Duguid.

“They have made this neighborhood feel like it’s a home for that sort of work, and Columbia has really taken the lead on making that happen,” Duguid said.

 Both Vazquez and Gahm agreed having a mural on display provides significant exposure to artists within their community.

“They’re always interesting to talk about because you walk by them every day,” Vazquez said. “It’s a way to get their name out, which is helpful because to get people to look at your work, you need people to know about you first.”