Work progresses on mural commemorating University's 175th anniversary

Images reflect community service, promotion of justice, campus buildings, historic visits, Christ's light | March 22, 2006

In a brightly lit studio in the Cohen Center, Holly Schapker is standing on a small bench, paint brush in hand. On the wall in front of her is a 5- by 10-foot canvas with half-painted faces, outlines of buildings, and symbols and memories of Xavier’s 175 year history.

Schapker, a painting instructor in the department of art, is creating the mural to commemorate and celebrate the University’s anniversary. The painting will be complete by April 22, in time for the University’s annual Academic Day celebration and will be permanently displayed outside the Duff Banquet Center.

“The piece reflects the spirit of Xavier rather than the historic,” says Schapker, a 1992 Xavier graduate. “I’m so proud to be a part of the Xavier community and grateful for all the people who have given so much to make Xavier a great university.”

The mural will not be mounted flat against a wall. Rather, it will be curved with the ends of the canvas sticking out about a foot away from the wall. The canvas will be supported by a special, acid-free material, which can be bent. A sculptor is creating a special metal frame for the piece.

“The curved panel will give the viewer the sense of being embraced by Xavier’s glorious spirit,” Schapker explains. “The power of X is in each of us who attended here, but Xavier’s spirit is also felt in the community and the world the University serves.”

The mural is being composed in layers with a multitude of images including a portrait of Xavier’s first president. There are also images reflecting community service, promotion of justice, campus buildings and an historic visit with the late Pope John Paul II. Many images are also shaded in gray to intertwine Xavier’s past, present and future. In the center of the mural, four students are seen crossing Cincinnati’s John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as they enter the University and as they graduate. “The bridge symbolizes transformation,” Schapker explains. “It’s the students being changed, awakened… intellectually, morally and spiritually.”

Near one top corner is an unfinished sun, which will contain the seal of the Society of Jesus.

“The sun will be the source of Christ’s light shining on Xavier,” says Schapker.

This is not the first painting Schapker has created for the University. Her portrait of former Xavier president, the late James Hoff, S.J., hangs in the Cintas Center concourse.