Between classes and finalizing projects for her art courses, Studio Art junior Victoria Marquez has spent much of her downtime creating a large mural for the Butler School of Music. Identifying a few hours here and there, and blocking off large chunks of the weekend, Marquez is slowly making progress on the 28-foot abstract painting located in the hallway leading to the music building’s loading dock.
“It’s such an honor for someone to let me into their space and change it,” Marquez said. “I know it has to take a lot of trust, and I am beyond grateful that they gave me that privilege.”
The project came to Marquez through her internship with John Yancey, a Studio Art professor and a muralist himself. (Visitors to Franklin’s Barbecue may have noticed Yancey’s work on East 11th Street). When the Butler school came to him with the idea of a mural in their building, Yancey recommended Marquez, who not only is working with Yancey on a commission in Fort Worth’s Rosedale Park, but has completed 10 murals on her own in her hometown of Laredo.
“I usually do hyper-realism,” Marquez said. “This is my first abstract mural. Abstract is fun, and it’s interesting how other people see and interpret it.”
To create the piece, Marquez met with Butler School of Music’s building coordinator Russell Podgorsek, who is also a lecturer in composition.
“I gave her 10 examples of pieces, and so from left to right, it’s a musical history timeline,” he said. “We asked her to create something abstract, because there’s a level of sophistication with the music we make here. We were going for something to let her flex her artistic muscles.”
Marquez took those songs and researched the color of the sound of the music. She then took each song and created white motion diagrams from various elements—some capturing the wave of the conductor’s arms, the back-and-forth of a string quartet’s bows or a singer’s mouth as the song builds—and added a second layer to the mural. The result is bursts of oranges, purples and reds, with swirls of white across them.
“There’s a real depth to the design that I really like,” Podgorsek said. “I thought both were great ideas, and I’m glad she chose to layer them.”
Yancey too was impressed with his student’s work.
“She pursued this process in a wonderful way,” he said. “She learned a lot about music during her research process.”
Murals in public spaces, Yancey said, are meant to create dialogue among those who see it, and he believes Marquez’s work will do just that.
“Frankly, there aren’t enough collaborative opportunities [across the college]. The Cohen New Works Festival is the strongest, but the rest is sort of ad-hoc,” he said. “Any chance for cross collaboration is really healthy.”
Yancey also helped Marquez with some of the logistics of a project this size. He made sure she considered storage of supplies, preparation of the wall to be painted on, and then, how to get started. Marquez projected the work she created and finalized in Photoshop onto the wall and then drew it with charcoal.
Much of Marquez’s confidence to try something so new to her came from her peers in the Art building.
“I’m so inspired by my classmates. They’re so great,” she said. “We all genuinely want to help each other out and grow. The atmosphere in the Art building is love, and it’s great energy.”
Podgorsek hopes that the inspiration will carry over into the music school once students and the visiting artists who frequent that hallway begin passing by Marquez’s finished product. What was once an industrial space prone to collecting trash will now be home to a collaborative art project.
“When it comes down to it, my favorite aspect of mural making is learning about the new community it will reside in. I love meeting new people and learning from them. I also just love being challenged to create a design for a mural that meets the needs of their thoughts and ideas as well as my creativity,” Marquez said. “I do hope my mural starts a dialogue on how to bridge art and music, but ultimately my biggest hope is that this piece brings delight to the faculty, staff and students at the Butler School of Music. They are the people who are going to be seeing it every day, and I always kept that thought as my priority.”