The Big Picture

Students’ mural is a “gift to the community.”

By Roger Fillion

Publish Date: October 17, 2014

MSU Denver students painted the mural for the soccer field at the new
Regency Athletic Complex at MSU Denver. PHOTO: Trevor Davis

SEE The process of the mural being created.

Darlene Thomas and four MSU Denver classmates were newbies. They had never designed, much less painted, a huge outdoor mural — one that would stretch 184 feet in length and connect in some way to the surrounding Denver neighborhood.

The students had fewer than four days to design the mural, which stands 6 feet at the far left and tapers to 2 feet on the far right. They researched the wood, paint and other materials needed. “We started from scratch,” recalled Thomas, 46, a fine arts major who will graduate in spring 2015.

Once they got the green light from MSU Denver, the students and nine additional classmates cut the 46 wood panels that would comprise the mural, sketched the designs on each panel and painted them. The entire process took four weeks. “It was challenging,” said Thomas.

Today, the mural hangs at the soccer field at the new Regency Athletics Complex at MSU Denver, which is on 12.5 acres on the south side of the Colfax viaduct. The mural, located at the south end of the soccer field, faces the Colfax viaduct and is visible from the road.

“We believe the mural will help connect the local community to our great new facility,” said Athletic Director Joan McDermott. “In addition, it gives us the opportunity to show off the excellent art program we have at MSU Denver and gives our art students exposure to new audiences that maybe aren’t aware of their great talents.”

The mural features notable Denver architectural landmarks, including the central branch of the Denver Public Library. Moving right, it transitions to historical Denver buildings, such as St. Catejan's on the Auraria Campus, before displaying images of foothills and mountains. Soccer players’ feet are superimposed across the mural. A soccer ball with MSU Denver’s mascot Rowdy the Roadrunner is dead center.

“The mural is a reflection of the Denver area from the city to the mountains,” said Associate Professor of Art Carlos Frésquez, who taught the class, “Community Painting: The Mural.”

The impetus for creating the mural stemmed from frequent tagging of the concrete wall where the artwork now hangs. To dissuade further tagging, Frésquez called on his students to develop a design. “When a mural is up on a wall, it usually doesn’t get tagged,” he said.

Thomas and her four classmates were among three teams from Frésquez’ class who submitted a design proposal to a three-member panel of MSU Denver staff. Their team was chosen and the entire class of 14 worked on the project.

To create the design Thomas and her teammates held a brainstorming session. “We went around the room with our ideas and somehow pulled it all together into one idea,” she said. Some of the ideas behind the art:

  • The soccer players’ feet represent “a dynamic force” while their race, gender and age are undetermined.
  • The black-and-white images are in dramatic contrast to boldly painted mountains, Denver’s skyline and historic buildings in and around Auraria.
  • The symbolism of winning the soccer game reflects MSU Denver’s goal of creating winners in all areas of life.

“I see this as a true gift to the community — not just the MSU Denver community, but the community at large,” Frésquez said. “My students’ hearts and minds are in the design and conception of this mural.”

Added Thomas, “The experience of working together on such a large scale, recognizing each other's talent and seeing it all come together, is truly awesome.”