English mural portrays favorite authors

Writers are occupying the hallways of the English offices in the Palumbo Academic Center.  That doesn’t sound like anything new: most students of English do a lot of writing.  But these writers are different because they are pencil drawings.

As Palumbo undergoes painting throughout the academic departments, the English department commissioned a student artist, Roman Denisyuk, to decorate the wall with portraits of well-known writers.

Carol Hayes, an instructor in the English department, said Denisyuk proposed the idea of a mural when she brought up the university’s plans to paint outside the offices.

“I almost laughed at first,” Hayes admitted.  “And then I thought, no, we could actually do this.  I knew Roman was good at portraits from having class with him where he brought in a painting instead of a paper.

“Before I knew it, the idea was real and Roman had a plan laid out.  Before I knew it, he came to me this year asking for my favorite authors.”

Douglas King, Ph.D., an associate professor in the English department, said the mural is part of the department’s efforts to make the space in Palumbo more noticeable and appealing.

“We didn’t have anything visible to show off during tours other than the Totem office,” he said.  “Once I was able to look at Roman’s work, we started brainstorming what should go on this wall. “

“We wanted something with writers and quotes to [provide a visual] for writing and literature, which is what we’re about here. We decided to take favorite or influential writers from the English professors and keep them as graphite drawings to simplify things.

“We also had to decide things like how many writers we would put up, where to put it and how to whittle down the list [for portraits.]”

A Schuster Arts Grant funded Denisyuk’s materials and payment for his work.  Even as he was starting his sketches, people were reacting to the wall, which will be made interactive with an answer key at the other end of the hallway that identifies each writer.

“We’re making a little game of it,” King said.  “You can look at the pictures, guess who’s who and then find the answers by walking through the rest of the hallway.”

Denisyuk, a junior interdisciplinary student with a minor in theatre and fine arts, said he was grateful to be painting the mural and receiving pay for it.

“I can’t really afford to create art for art’s sake,” he said.  “No artist can.  I’m a student and I work [outside of school], so getting paid was a good reason to do it.”

He said he spent upwards of 25 hours working on the wall, which he hopes to finish this week.

“I can’t spend any more time on it,” Denisyuk said.  “It won’t be worth as much as I’m getting paid if I go over 40 hours.”

When asked if he had any of his own favorites make it to the mural, Denisyuk said some of them did.

“I like Chekhov, Dickens, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Twain and Ed Hawthorne,” he said.

KELSEY GHERING, [email protected]