No more white walls

Art students redecorate the CFA's bland walls for final project

The Spectrum

For the past few weeks, AnnMarie Agness has been sitting in the basement of UB's Center For the Arts with a paintbrush in hand and a white wall in front of her.

To the untrained eye, the wall painting that is beginning to materialize may look like little more than jagged lines breaking apart the whiteness of the wall. But Agness' wall painting is more than that - it's an exact replica of the audio waves for the track "Black Cow" by Steely Dan. It's incredibly precise.

Against the top 40 tracks that litter today's music scene, the audio track shows dynamism and scrupulous engineering. Such qualities may be rare in today's music, but they're alive in UB's art students.

"I have lost count of how many hours I've spent on this," said Agness, a junior general studio major. "I've been here for the past few weeks - just painting."

Five years ago, when Joan Linder, an associate professor in UB's art department, walked through the bare walls of the CFA, she decided something needed to change.

"I used to walk into this building and it felt like Bed, Bath and Beyond - something really antiseptic, not like an arts school," Linder said. "I just wanted to see something on the walls."

So Linder incorporated the execution of a mural as a final project in her class, ART307: Thematic Drawing. The murals are projects that let students experience drawing in the public eye and develop their perspective on location. It serves as a way of creating a voice, developing interests and communicating a personal visual language.

The wall paintings go through a long process before the brushes are dipped into paint. They are meticulously planned and overseen by multiple authorities within the university, including Linder, the chair of the art department and the head of facilities.

The wall paintings are more than just drawings - they express UB students' pride in diversity. On one side of the second floor corridor Joe Vu, a senior studio major, uses thick black paint to curve strong lines into shapes.

"Mostly it's inspired by Japanese line work and commercial art more than anything else," Vu said. "This building sucks. So this adds a little character to it. It kind of makes you feel as if you're in an actual arts school because this program is very safe and painting the murals messes with that a little bit, which is really cool."

The lines are forming large, expressive shapes with flowers and circular patters being dominated by waves that have been entwined through the smaller features of the mural.

Neaha Aamir, a junior psychology and general studio major, is seated in the same corridor. Her painting, which sits on the wall opposite of Vu's, rivals the other painter's bold, artistic stance. At the center of Aamir's mural is a giant face of a Muslim woman.

"This is a Muslim woman, and in society today they're kind of targeted, so I wanted to do something that was kind of celebratory," Aamir said. "Whenever I walk into the hallways, I feel kind of inspired by some of them. It's good that we have this kind of outlet to make it nice."

The wall paintings weren't directly intended to spread diversity, but the art being plastered across the walls is expressive of the eclectic mix of students who call UB their home.

The pieces of art do not overbear each other - they stand alone and demand equal attention.

"I've been waiting for the Visual Studies department to get a density first, which I think it's really just starting to get," Linder said. "You walk in and there's something yellow, there's a giant face, there's flowers, there's a sound wave, the shoes over here - it's starting to feel dense enough that spreading out into the campus, where it's desired, will be great."

The wall paintings are beginning to spread throughout the campus. Recently, the typography wall paintings have added a colorful and thought-provoking lacquer to the Lockwood corridors. And as the wall paintings receive continual support and admiration, the hope is for the wall paintings to appear more frequently across campus, provided university officials give permission, according to Linder.

Time, thought and planning are essential for the longevity of the paintings. Though some of the murals that cover the CFA were original works produced five years ago, others have been painted over.

"I call them semi-permanent to the students," Linder said.

No matter the longevity of the pieces, they epitomize UB's art department - a growing program that is getting denser and more diverse with age.