Dordt College News

New mural brings the prairie Inside

August 17, 2011

The new hallway mural on the lower level of the science building was painted by five artists. Its stylized rendering of playful and inviting  flowers and grasses captures life in Dordt's restored prairie.

Art students don’t typically spend long hours in Dordt’s science building.

However, for several weeks this spring, four painting students nearly inhabited the halls of the building’s lower level, combining science and art in a mural featuring Iowa prairie plants.

Earlier this semester, Biology Professor Tony Jelsma contacted Art Professor Matthew Drissell about painting a mural in a bare hallway connecting old and newer parts of the science building. After researching prairie plants and sketching initial designs, Drissell and four painting students set to work on beautifying the section of the building’s hallway.

A similar connecting hallway on the upper level of the science building displays an astronomy-themed mural, painted by art students several years ago. The walls of the lower level, near the biology, environmental studies, and agriculture departments have remained white for years, however. Drissell explains that the environmental studies professors suggested that they paint a mural depicting an unadulterated Iowa prairie.

“I had an idea in mind to somehow make the mural both scientifically accurate and artistically expressive,” says Drissell.

He and his students began by researching prairie plants, including the time of year the plants thrive and their average heights. The students sketched the plants in ink onto large paper, editing and tweaking along the way. Drissell then combined the student’s drawings into a unified scene in Photoshop. Finally, this scene was projected onto the walls and traced.

Freshman Aaron Tudor explains that the process worked very efficiently: “It was very easy to convert the plants from real life to their painted form. Even though there are several artists working on the mural, all of the different painting styles seem to blend together and form one complete piece.”

Throughout the process, Drissell and the students were careful to give an accurate and artistic representation of the Iowa prairie. Because of their research, these art students have had the opportunity to learn more about the Iowa landscape, and Tudor notes, “I have definitely gained an appreciation for the prairie.”

The science professors and students appreciate both the accurate portrayal of the prairie and how the mural livens up the hallway. Jelsma admires the artistry—“It’s an explosion of color”—and its accuracy, noting, “These are real plants, so what we see in the mural is also out in our prairie.”


Media Access: Download Word Version | High Resolution Image: 1 | 2