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Artist collaboration brings new wall mural to campus for Earth Day


Liesel Plambeck works with students on the new mural located on the Sustainability Building. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Liesel Plambeck works with students on the new mural located on the Sustainability Building. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Liesel Plambeck from Los Angeles designed a mural based on students’ responses to a virtual questionnaire, spearheaded by Union Board.

In a questionnaire asking four questions, “What represents the community of Knox,” “What do you want people to feel as they visit your school for the first time,” “What elements from nature could you see on this wall” and “Are there any specific colors that come to mind,” California based artist Liesel Plambeck put together a design that is soon to be a permanent mural on the Knox campus in celebration of Earth Day.

Senior and Head of Union Board PR committee Kathryn Allee spearheaded the project, from finding the artist to getting permission to make it permanent for years to come. It was important for Allee to make sure it was involving as many students and faculty as possible, even given COVID protocols. To paint the mural, participants were required to sign up for time slots to come and assist Plambeck with the design.

With plans put in place, Plambeck was ready to fly to Galesburg to collaborate with the Knox community to paint an 8 foot tall by 18 foot long wall surfaced with Plambeck’s artwork and inspired by those who know the Knox spirit. 

“My cousin, Kathryn Allee, is a senior at Knox and asked me if I would want to design a mural for Earth Day. Initially, the idea was to do a temporary installation, but I asked her if she thought we could get a permanent wall, and she literally got permission to paint a permanent mural the next day on the sustainability building,” said Plambeck.

The mural painting is focusing on the celebration of Earth Month. What was most important to Plambeck was the collaboration with the Knox community. She felt that without the input through the questionnaire, the design would turn out to be based on her experience and feelings with Earth Day rather than what it means to Knox.

“One of my favorite things about painting murals is being able to interpret and tell a story that represents a community. It’s important to me that the community loves the mural and feels well represented,” said Plambeck. “The collaborative aspect of this project was definitely essential for creating the design. With the involvement of students, the mural became so much more personal and represents a collective spirit and story of Knox.”

Students  continue working on the mural using ladders to reach all areas. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Students continue working on the mural using ladders to reach all areas. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

As Plambeck read all 36 responses to the questionnaire, she underlined points that were mentioned often and gathered the data to see the most prominent ideas to the design. The keywords she wrote down were “fox on fire, trees, oaks, unity, color, nature/compassion for nature, sustainability, prairie environment, farm, gardening, spring, welcome, sun rising, moon, stars, tulips, sunflowers, crows, ginkgo tree.” With all of these responses, she planned to keep purple and gold in mind, showcasing the Knox school colors. 

“I hadn’t planned on it coming together the way it did, but a lightbulb just turned on one day as I was designing that I could combine these elements of the prairie, crows and fox with a red sun to represent fire or a burning landscape,” said Plambeck. 

From Monday, April 19th to Thursday, April 22nd (Earth Day), the mural was worked on and completed with the help of many members of the Knox community. One of which was sophomore Teagan Springer who hopes to continue to bring art and the environment into focus as she becomes the Sustainability Chair of Student Senate next year. 

Springer stated that to create the mural, they waited until it was dark and projected the image onto the wall to trace the projected lines with chalk and painted over them with white paint. The participants put dots of colors in each shape to indicate what color it should be painted and then colored them in. After adjusting the edges and cleaning the lines, they sealed the wall with an “anti-graffiti sealer” to ensure there is no damage done to the mural from vandalism. 

Although Springer was involved in the painting process, she found that her favorite part of this experience was learning more about the ins and outs of Plambeck’s career as a working artist. 

“Artists often have such unique journeys, so it’s great to learn more about what careers in art can look like, and the work that goes into projects like murals or textile design in clothing,” Springer said.

Senior Veronica Sefic listens to Plambecks open lecture on creating murals. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Senior Veronica Sefic listens to Plambecks open lecture on creating murals. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Plambeck, Allee and Springer all hope that the mural brings a reminder of community to those who view it when walking past the Sustainability building.

“I hope that as people walk by the mural they will think about how lucky we are to be surrounded by beautiful nature and that they will be inspired to work hard to protect our environment,” said Springer. “Sustainability is essential to our future, and art can be a powerful agent for showing that to others.” 

Sophomore Sage Lundquist, another participant in the project, notes how positivity and art affect students in important ways, making this mural a nice reminder to the Knox community.

“Honestly, if this mural is just something that people mildly enjoy when they walk by it, that will be enough for me. Just like the flowering trees or the little positivity signs that have been popping up, making Knox campus a pleasant place to walk through has a bigger impact on the student psyche than I think is recognized,” Lundquist said.

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