The mural, an idea from the Newman Honors Council, was designed by sophomore honors student Kayla Garvert, said Assistant Director of the Honors Program Emily Simon.
“Mostly, we just really wanted the Honors Lounge to be a unique space for our students — a space that felt all their own,” she said, “And then Kayla got involved and provided a cool design and a cool way to put it on the wall.”
Simon had put out a call for designs on the group’s Facebook page, which Garvert answered.
Garvert, who designed a mural in Plainville, Kansas, and the Honors Program T-shirts this year, first asked students for feedback on what they wanted in the mural design.
“I got two responses,” said Garvert. “One was the Honors games that we play and the other one was … to incorporate ice cream somehow,” she said. “ I couldn’t really put the ice cream in there, but I saw the gamebook for the French Revolution game that all of the freshmen play in their first Honors class and based the design off of that.”
On the mural, Garvert combined historical and modern elements.
“In the design, it’s a whole bunch of people and they’re kind of rallying around one person standing in the center,” she said. “So I took that and I combined it with a photo that was posted last semester of one of our freshmen students named Zowie [Riedel] who was standing on a chair surrounded by her classmates. And I just kind of thought it’d be neat if I inserted Zowie into this historical image.”
Riedel said having the mural inspired by her is a special experience.
“It makes me really understand that each person truly does get noticed and everything we do here has a lasting impact,” she said. “It also reflects Newman’s mission statement, that we are all here to transform society — in this case, by being a leader.”
Simon said it was Garvert’s hard work and creativity that brought the project together.
“I want to commend Kayla Garvert for all her work on this mural,” she said. “She came up with the idea and then gave us a mechanism through which lots of the Honors students could participate in making the room their own.”
To make sure all Honors students could be involved, Garvert designed the mural with the students’ abilities in mind.
“Since we were going to make this a group project, it wasn’t just going to be me painting on it. I wanted to make it so that even those people who claim they’re not an artist could still paint on it. So I made it more of a paint by number.”
The paint by number approach, Garvert said, gives the mural a more unique feel.
“At first glance, you’re like, ‘Okay, what is all of this?’ But then you kind of start to notice. Like you’ll see a hat and then you realize what you’re looking at is a person,” she said. “The most detail is focused on the portrayal of Zoe in the middle. Everything else is black and white and Zoe is in color.”
The program hopes the mural will be finished by mid-March.
Garvert said she chose the French Revolution game because it is a freshmen tradition in the Honors Program.
“It’s my understanding that every freshman Honors student that comes to Newman is going to end up playing that game in their first class,” she said. “So it’s kind of spoken of as the freshmen initiation into the Honors Program.”
Simon, who is also an alumna of the program, said the game is intentionally engaging for the students who play.
“More so that many other Reacting to the Past games, it asks students to do some outrageous things like stand on tables and make last-minute decisions and yell loudly while other people are trying to talk,” she said. “So no matter what kind of experience you have with the game, it’s typically a pretty vivid memory. And despite all the yelling, the difficult game is a unifying experience for our students.”
Riedel said she is proud to have this mural in the Honors Lounge.
“As an Honors student, having the mural there is a reminder of our sort of calling and duty toward others,” she said. “To be a leader but also to be part of the whole team and crowd of people.”