KOKOMO, Ind. — On the side of a downtown business, a vision of Kokomo 1,000 years into the future is taking shape, under the hands of talented Indiana University Kokomo artists.
On summer evenings, the five students in Minda Douglas’s community arts projects class bring their mural to life, showing a futuristic view of the City of Firsts, after an alien invasion. While there are familiar sights, such as the Kokomantis, the Kokomo Municipal Stadium, churches, and other current buildings, there are also brightly-colored aliens scattered throughout the 120-foot-long and 20-foot high painting, designed by student Janet Meeks.
The whimsical design fits the parameters set out by representatives of Bucheri McCarty & Metz for their new downtown office, when they commissioned the project.
“They wanted something fun, something colorful and interactive,” said Douglas, associate professor of fine arts. “Janet did a great job with all of those things. They didn’t want something that already exists in Kokomo. They wanted something different, something new, and she met that criteria well.”
The interactive portion of the mural is a seek-and-find game, with a drawing near Main Street showing aliens seekers can look for along the wall, Meeks said.
The Logansport resident enjoys seeing the design she sketched on paper take shape on the wall. She’s dreamed of being a professional muralist since painting one with a friend at Columbia Middle School while she was a student there.
“This project has given me confidence that I can make a living as an artist,” she said. “There are always a lot of calls for mural artists, and now I have experience creating one as a professional.”
The class is a way to fulfill community requests, while allowing students to earn credit for completing the work, Douglas said.
Each student drew a proposal and presented it to the clients, who selected their favorite. They all agreed to paint whichever design was selected, putting in 120 hours each, and will work beyond the end of the summer session as needed to finish it.
Painting began in the dark, with students projecting the image onto the side of the building, and sketching it with a wax writing tool. Then, they started painting, using high-quality exterior paint meant to last, doing the work in the evening to avoid the July daytime heat.
Fine arts major Alissa Krieg said it was her first time painting a mural, and she looks forward to seeing it completed.
“I feel like with this project, I’ve done something to benefit Kokomo on a local level,” said Krieg, from Michigantown. “I think it’s important for artists to participate in beautifying their community. It’s been a good experience working with actual clients, and seeing how much this type of art costs.”
Douglas called it a valuable real-world experience, going through the submission process, buying supplies, and seeing how much time it takes to complete a large-scale project.
“They’ve learned how they could possibly go ahead and do something like this on their own, and how to market themselves and price that work,” she said.
It’s also a confidence boost, Douglas said.
“This is something they’ve done for their community that will be here for a long time, something they can be proud of,” she said.
Jon Hendricks, manager at Bucheri McCarty & Metz, appreciated being able to partner with IU Kokomo in their vision to contribute to downtown.
“Our firm’s hope is to contribute to the ongoing revitalization,” he said, which is why they opened a second office on North Main Street. “Murals are a great way to improve urban space, and we were really excited they wanted to work with us. The class has been incredibly professional and impressive.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.