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Removal of Massive PE Mural Has Artist Upset

By   /   January 24, 2014  /   Comments Off

In 1983, College of DuPage dedicated the newly minted Physical Education Center along with a massive 40 foot by 12 foot ceramic mural in the entry level of the building, entitled “Aidos.”

30 years later, the college has modernized the building through referendum-related funding, add- ing new facilities for student ath- letes and upgrading the look of the building. However, making the PE Center new once again meant old “Aidos” would not re- turn to campus.

This fact disturbed retired art professor Pamela Lowrie, who, along with John Wantz, is credit-ed as the one of the mural’s artists.

“I was in such shock and I was so upset for such a long time,” she said recalling the time she had been informed of the mural’s fate at the start of the school year. “I finally had to get a grip on my-self because I was making myself crazy.”

And so Lowrie took action. During the Nov. 21, 2013 board of trustees meeting, she and several others spoke out about the significance of “Aidos” in the college’s history and why it should stay on campus.

The mural in question, built over the course of 20 months, was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of the perfection of mind, body and spirit. The 12 panel mural weighs at least two tons and has an estimated value of $65,000, ac- cording to Lowrie. The space the mural once occupied has been redesigned to accommodate the new fitness center.

“Aidos” currently sits in a specialized storage facility in Chicago, where Lowrie and Wantz share the quarterly $372 cost to house it.

In a response to an inquiry, COD stated the mural would not return due to “the damage it will cause to the new brick, the difficulty entailed in maintaining the piece and because it does not fit the current aesthetics of the renovated Center.”

Lowrie found those reasons to be “absurd.” She countered the response by citing the durability of the stoneware and the “appropriate” design of the athletic figures on the artwork.

“I wonder who thought up the reasons,” Lowrie laughed; “It makes no sense.” Lowrie stressed the effort of contributing students, faculty and staff who as a key component to the significance of “Aidos.”

“When we were all working our fingers to the bone for long hours, we were doing it for the love of the college and expecting it to be there forever.” Lowrie would like to keep the entire mural reinstalled and even offered to help reinstall and repair the piece for no cost. She also would be satisfied if it ended up elsewhere on campus besides the PE Center.

“I wouldn’t mind if the whole thing were preserved somewhere on the campus. It was designed [specifically] for the PE building, but it was designed for the college,” she said.

During the December board meeting, Trustee Nancy Svoboda presented the issue to the board with brief background of the mu- ral and a petition from the community. Svoboda also provided seemingly pointed questions at the college’s handling of older artwork overall, asking how the board would feel if a change in leadership decided in the near future to remove the bronze Chaparral statue currently outside the Student Services Center.

“In general, how is it to be determined that a piece of art, a piece of the college’s history, is no longer serving the purpose of the college?” she asked.

Trustees Kathy Hamilton and Dianne McGuire suggested splicing the mural for some parts to be displayed on campus and possibly in other community venues.

Student Trustee Stephanie Torres proposed to get student feedback on the matter. Chairman Erin Birt recommended the board receive additional information and background, to which the trustees agreed.

In response to the proposal to split the artwork, Lowrie said it would be “unfortunate” but conceded that it would be a better alternative than a total disposal.

Despite the uncertainty over the future of “Aidos,” Lowrie is sure the mural offers not only a glimpse into the college’s history, but also an enduring impact.

“It was made for the college in the hopes that it would be inspiring to people…I think it would be inspiring to anybody who saw it.”

Check out this 1983 video documenting how the mural was created

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