KOKOMO, Ind. — After weeks of staring at her artwork on a computer screen, it’s a surreal experience for Mara Fivecoate to see her vision in a larger-than-life format.
Fivecoate, a junior at Indiana University Kokomo, designed a 91-foot wide, nearly 20 feet tall, mural near the new entrance to the Markland Mall, for a community art project summer class. Now, she and her classmates toil under the hot July sun, bringing it to life, one can of paint at a time.
“It’s a little intimidating to put your artwork up on a giant wall,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling to see the progress and know it’s my design. So many others in my class had wonderful ideas, and I’m grateful mine was chosen.”
She created a retro feel for the brightly colored mural, which proclaims “Welcome to Kokomo,” with a skyline representing the city and county on the lower half. Images of the covered bridge and Old Ben at Highland Park, a Haynes Apperson car, and the IU logo, among others, fill the letters of the word Kokomo.
Aaron Pickens, assistant professor of fine arts and new media, said this is the third mural IU Kokomo students have completed during summer classes, with the previous two in downtown locations. He’s excited for the opportunity to have student work displayed at the mall.
“We’re very fortunate we have something this prominent within the community, and to say it’s from IU Kokomo,” he said. “It’s good not only for the community, but also our campus.”
The project gave the seven students the chance to participate in a professional design proposal, just like they might do as working artists. Each one took mall management’s criteria — something that celebrates living in Kokomo and welcomes people to the city — developed an idea, put it on paper, and created a presentation. Mall representatives viewed all of them and selected Fivecoate’s, with just a few tweaks.
“Seeing a design that just exists in pencil and paper, taking it to a computer to generate an image, and then seeing the competitive aspect of commercial art is a valuable experience,” Pickens said. “It shows them you can bring a large-scale project to fruition, but there is a lot of planning that goes into it. You need to make sure the planning is done to the best of your ability. This gives them just a little taste of what that is like.”
Each student will have put in 120 hours of work painting the mural by the time it is complete in early August. As they paint, they also get to interact with people as they pass by and talk to them about the work — and they have even been asked about creating murals for other buildings.
It’s a welcome experience for those interested in art careers.
“There’s a myth that being an artist you’re always going to be poor,” Pickens said. “An experience like this shows it’s completely feasible. It gives them some optimism that a career in art is a real possibility.
“They’re learning from real-world experience you can make money being a muralist.”
Alex Townsend previously painted a mural for a restaurant where he worked, but said the class mural was a different experience.
“The other one, I had to come up with a concept on the spot,” the Tipton resident said. “There’s more of a real-world feeling to this. It felt more like an actual project than everyone getting together and painting something. If another opportunity came up, I would definitely do this again.”
Fivecoate, from Kokomo, is majoring in psychology with a studio art minor, planning a career as an art therapist. However, she’s open to another big project.
“Art has been a big part of my life since I was young,” she said. “I’ve never painted a mural before, but now I want to do another one.”
Additional participating students are Nancy Santiago, Frankfort; Brittany Lucas and Kena Spurling, Kokomo; Mason Pate, Lafayette; and Sienna Urbina, Logansport.
Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.