Feature Stories

Share this Story

Marlin Mural Festival Enlivens Neil Britton Gallery

Student collaborators transform the space into an immersive painted environment

University News | February 27, 2024

View Photo Gallery

Virginia Wesleyan University’s Neil Britton Art Gallery, located in Hofheimer Library, has been transformed by the creation of student works that have unfolded over an extended period of time. Students' creative collaborations have resulted in the Marlin Mural Festival, the brainchild of Professor of Art and Gallery Curator John Rudel. More than 60 students have contributed to the mural since its inception at the beginning of the fall 2023 semester. Students engaged in the project include those enrolled in Painting I (Fall ‘23), Ceramics (Fall ‘23), Public Art (January Term), Beginning/Advanced Art (Spring ‘24), and some individually motivated students.

Rudel views the mural project as a tool to supply students with a degree of professional experience.

“This process mimics the process of gaining commissions for public art in the real world where artists (in this case, students,) create proposals for design additions and give presentations to advocate for their design ideas. Students whose projects get selected then become team leaders for groups that work on their design.”

Rudel explains that upon completion of their paintings, all students involved can document their involvement in the project and add it to their resume as a "professional exhibition experience." He notes that students who want to apply for public art projects in the "real world" will have some substantive examples of previous work for their professional resumes.

Though VWU’s innovative mural project explores several creative themes, shaped by the freedom of expression and personal individuality of the collaborators, it also seamlessly unifies and presents as a cohesive work. One of the most thought-provoking elements of the mural is its physical placement inside the gallery at Virginia Wesleyan.

“The Neil Britton Art Gallery is a culture creator, an amenity, and a means to enliven the academic environment on the VWU campus,” explains Rudel. “This exhibition has been an ongoing evolution and has engaged students working on the project and those who visit the space to see what is happening as the project has continued over the past months. It has given form to the creative process and the collaborative endeavor of multiple individuals over time. Art galleries typically hold artworks and artifacts for viewing and contemplation, however, we've turned the Neil Britton Art Gallery into an immersive painted environment. The gallery has become an Artwork, and viewers have to figure out what that means to them.”

The culmination of the months-long project will be celebrated with an opening ceremony to mark the mural’s completion on March 7, 2024, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. During this time, attendees will have the opportunity to meet, chat, and share hors d'oeuvres with the artists. The reception is free and open to the public.

Brooke Underwood '24 contributed to this feature.

Learn more about the Arts at VWU.