Inclusivity, nature and community were the three main themes for USD art students and Vermillion residents when they joined together to create a community mural on the wall of the Coyote Twin Theatre April 23.
Planning for the mural has been ongoing since January, when Amber Hansen, a USD assistant professor of painting, along with USD senior Rebecca Froehlich and graduate student Carolina Pineda showed Hansen’s documentary “Called to Walls” at the theater.
“We screened the film at the theater to show what this process looked like,” Hansen said. “It’s a film talking about creating community-based murals in middle America and what the community-based process looks like.”
Hansen said about 40 people came to the informational meeting afterward and 30 people were placed on the community design team.
Sandra Kern Mollman, a community-based theater artist who’s been part of the design team from the beginning, said “Called to Walls” was inspiring and was excited to get involved in this community-based activity with her 13-year-old daughter, Elliza.
“We volunteered to get together once every couple weeks for a bit to just throw out different ideas about what the community was and meant to us and how we could put that into pictures,” Mollman said.
Froehlich and Pineda helped by leading the sessions and doing research on Vermillion, which they brought back to the design team for possible ideas.
“We researched fun stories and fun facts, stuff like that,” Froehlich said. “The design team brought their own fun facts about Vermillion as well.”
Ideas brought to life
Froehlich said they wanted to show many ideas at once, so they researched the history of movie posters for inspiration.
“We were using that idea to put many compositions and showcase many ideas at once while also tying to the location of movie theater and showing that this location is special and important because it’s the theaters,” Froehlich said.
Eventually, they came up with a mural featuring five movie posters.
Pineda said each poster represents important features of Vermillion.
The mural farthest to the left depicts a poster that says “Vermcats” with two cats reenacting the famous spaghetti scene from “Lady and the Tramp.” The poster has a rainbow flag floating above the two cats.
Pineda said this showcases Vermillion’s large feral cat population in a friendly manner, and the rainbow flag represents inclusivity.
“That was a really big theme that kept coming up,” Pineda said. “It was important to show the Vermillion is very inclusive.”
The next part of the mural is a poster titled “The Vortex,” which depicts superheroes fighting a giant gorilla that looks like King Kong.
Pineda said the superheroes were designed by kids at Jolley Elementary School and represent the people of Vermillion.
She said the “The Vortex” typically refers to how once someone starts living in Vermillion, it’s almost impossible to get out.
“We wanted to reclaim the term ‘vortex’ so we could give it a positive connotation,” said Michael Suing, an associate curator of the National Music Museum who’s been helping out with the project.
The next movie poster depicts two kayakers going down a river. Pineda said this not only represents the local river, but also refers to nature’s importance to Vermillion.
The next poster depicts famous local Native American artist and former USD professor of art Oscar Howe with two of his students.
Pineda said they wanted to honor his legacy as a Native American artist.
The last poster depicts children playing musical instruments, which Pineda said represents how music and the local National Music Museum are big parts of the community.
“That’s a common thing, people are very creative here and they love music,” Pineda said.
Tying all of these posters together are hands of several different ethnicities.
“The hands are different colors to represent cultural diversity,” Pineda said. “Literally referencing how the design team worked together, that different people worked together to come up with this idea.”
The mural is set to be completed by the end of May.
Mollman said she’s pleased and excited for the final product.
“I think a project like this helps to literally create a community,” she said.
The project will help unite USD and Vermillion, Mollman said.
“When we get together to create things and meet people that we don’t know and what their role in our community is, we’re able to feel more a part of it and allow us to realize how we are a part of each other more,” she said.