By Mariane Gutierrez
After being pushed back for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a mural in the Texas Union food court was finally completed in late August.
Recent alumna Roxolana Krywonos (B.F.A., Studio Art, 2020) created a mural with images that represented the student journey that is now available to view near the food court on the ground floor of the Texas Union.
Back in the spring, the Texas Union staff reached out to Karen Maness, scenic art supervisor in Texas Performing Arts and a lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance, to ask about painting a mural in the Union building. Maness suggested offering the opportunity to a UT student, and she asked the students in her scenic painting class if anyone was interested. Krywonos volunteered and began the planning process with the Union.
The mural originally was set to be completed before the end of the spring semester in May, but when UT closed campus to move to a remote teaching model, the project was pushed to the summer.
Krywonos and the Union worked together to keep the project moving forward despite the circumstances. They had hoped students could watch the mural in progress, but with social distancing requirements in place, working in the empty building over the summer turned out to be a safer option for her.
The Union gave Krywonos wide latitude in conceptualizing the work, and she chose to depict the college experience as most students see it. She illustrated three people walking through the woods working together to get somewhere. To build on her theme, Krywonos also included coyotes that symbolize the struggles one might experience during this time in their lives.
“I settled on this idea of being kind of lost in the woods, the sun's going down. Are they exploring, or are they lost? This metaphor most represented my college experience because you go in, and sometimes it's really great and everything's magical, and sometimes it's really bad.”
Krywonos said she modeled the people in the painting after her friends, Juan Angel Leyva, Theatre Studies major with a minor in Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, and alumna Danielle Henderson (B.F.A., Design, 2020) because she wanted to give them and others a sense of belonging.
Prior to this project, Krywonos had only worked on small paintings on her own, and although Maness’s class taught her how to work on large-scale paintings, she always worked alongside someone else. So, she said this mural was an opportunity for her to grow as an artist.
“I never did something this big on my own before,” Krywonos said. “I’ve done a lot of small pieces on my own and bigger ones in teams in class because a lot of it is for the theater programs that they run and the opera backdrops… but still it's been a progression.”
In the future, Krywonos is open to new opportunities and hopes to work on other murals. She said this project helped her be mindful of what she is working on, and she hopes to continue painting in similar ways.
“My philosophy in general, in the past couple of years, has been to go in with a suitcase-half-full attitude,” Krywonos said. “I want to do more projects like this because I find them really enjoyable and satisfying.”