Every student who has attended Castleton State College has walked through the academic side of campus past Woodruff and Leavenworth Halls, past the library, and on to Stafford and Jeffords. This walkway includes stones set in the sidewalk celebrating the history of Castleton as a school from when it began as a teacher’s college to what it is today.
As another way to celebrate the history of our school, our region and our state, Associate Professor Mike Austin has presented the idea of painting the brick walls of Woodruff Hall and the library with murals portraying important historical events.
“It’s a blank slate right now,” Austin said. “There is lots of space to be used academically and aesthetically.”
Austin believes that we can combine the visual arts with history to celebrate our school as a Vermont State College. He also feels strongly about uniting the disciplines since we are a higher education institution.
President Dave Wolk agrees with Austin on the point about celebrating Castleton’s and the state’s history, but he feels it should be done in a different way.
“I found it curious that someone would want to paint over the beautiful brick facades of our historic buildings,” Wolk said.
In order to celebrate the 225th anniversary of Castleton State College, a book titled “Big Heart” has been published by Castleton. The release in December will create an opportunity for people to celebrate and recognize our school’s history. President Wolk hopes the entire campus community will attend.
He said he loves the idea of celebrating history and our school, just not by painting on the walls.
Austin, however, pointed to cities such as Montreal and Quebec that have such murals to celebrate their historical events. He believes Vermont has a great history and would love for the campus to reflect that.
“Here’s a great way to reinforce celebration of Vermont,” he said.
Austin said Castleton is located in the slate valley and there is a lot of quarrying around here. Along with that, he feels Robert Frost, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys and the Battle of Hubbardton should all be recognized in paint because they all are important to our country, our state and our region.
Austin said he has gotten a lot of positive feedback about his idea from his fellow staff and faculty including Rita Geno, Jonathan Spiro and art professor Bill Ramage.
“I am very supportive of public art, and as an historian I am especially appreciative of historical murals,” said Jonathan Spiro, assistant professor of history and associate academic dean. But Spiro said he understands not wanting to cover brick walls of a small New England College too.
Over the summer, adjunct history Paul Andriscin, another supporter of Austin’s idea, visited Montreal and Quebec and viewed murals on the sides of buildings. He said he likes Austin’s idea of bringing that celebration to Castleton.
Austin’s said they would have to be done in a way to sustain the harsh Vermont winters, but argues that if they survive in Canada, they can endure Vermont’s winter weather too.
He said the murals could add some color and livelihood to the otherwise “blank” brick walls, especially in the dead of winter. There is color all around campus in the fall and spring, but in the winter, Austin says, the place could use some sprucing up.
Austin said he’s floating the idea hoping for positive feedback with hopes it can become a reality.