The Creative Minds and Murals of a Favorite Campus Home
A student-driven mural initiative is placing student art in a residence hall already known for its sense of place.
Even before colorful murals started appearing in some of Peet Hall’s public spaces, this student residence hall, made up mostly of single rooms, had an artsy vibe and a pride of place that made students want to stay here year after year, even when better housing options opened up.
Take Simon Wu’20, for instance. He lived in Peet Hall all four of his Beloit years, never bothering to enter the college’s annual room lottery for a potential upgrade. “I love living in Peet,” he said only a couple of weeks before a global pandemic forced him and most of his neighbors to leave campus and finish their senior year remotely. “The people here are considerate and friendly, and my room has an east-facing window that allows the first beam of sunrise in. I can’t ask for more.”
Peet Hall also inspires this kind of dedication because of its a one-of-a-kind social calendar. Peet residents regularly host events, such as their very own riff on Thanksgiving, a pot luck called “Peetsgiving.” Peet is also the only hall at Beloit to present its own programming, including live music performances.
This year, residents started adding to the character of the place through the Beloit Public Art Coalition, a collective of student residents formed in the summer of 2019. The coalition polls fellow residents for ideas, chooses common spaces with walls that feel a little bland, and commissions paid student artists to create murals for the walls.
“With the murals, we’re looking to distinguish spaces and create a sense of place here,” says Quin Brunner’21, a three-year hall resident and one of the coalition’s founders. “We want people to be able to say things like, ‘Meet me at the waterfall painting,’” he says, referring to a lush landscape painting by Chloe McKinley’20 that encourages students to linger in an otherwise nondescript second floor lounge.
Professor of Art George Williams worked closely with students on planning the mural project. Williams recommends potential student artists, and he initially encouraged students to formalize their venture through CELEB, the college’s entrepreneurship center. The coalition also forged a partnership with and received funding from the college’s Health and Wellness Center, and its Residential Life Office, as well as CELEB.
As of March, three large murals were already completed, with three more in the works. In addition to McKinley, student artists Grace Zaffiro’21, Brooke McCammond’21, and Hannah Kang’22 have helped shape the project, and each has created at least one mural.
With no prior Peet affiliation, McCammond says she’s come to know and appreciate the student residents by working on a mural located in Peet’s first floor lounge. Through the coalition, she says she got a sense of what student residents wanted to see on their walls. Her swirling triptych painting in soothing greens and blues is prominent on a large wall framed by two east-facing windows.
“This project helped me understand the creative minds that live in Peet,” she said. “I wanted to make the space feel at ease because it’s a lounge,” she explains. “There’s a type of creativity and comfort that’s now able to dwell here.”