“Visions of Hope” Permanent student mural unveiled in Watkins Hall


Keaton Riebel

A new permanent art piece was revealed in Watkins Hall on Wednesday, March 1. The mural was painted by professor Alessandra Sulpy’s contemporary studio practices class. Pictured above is Sean Merchlewitz, a third-year who helped paint the project.

Lillianna Van De Walker, Features Reporter

Representing the diverse community coming together at Winona State University, “Visions of Hope”, a mural painted by a group of art students, was unveiled on Wednesday, Mar. 1 in Watkins Hall.

“I just really want to acknowledge the fact that students really put their heart and soul into this and they really did a huge amount of work,” Alessandra Sulpy, associate professor of painting and drawing, said while introducing her contemporary studio practices class that painted the mural.

The students who worked on the mural include Yousef Al-Abad, Libby Deyo, Ajay Jorgenson, Hannah Larsen, Joanna Meh, Alexys Moua, Em Schwabenbauer, Isabelle Zens, LB Conway, Paris Goulette, Dani Lannin, Hailey Lundgren, Sean Merchlewitz, Andy Roerick and Olivia Temp.

Spectators and artists gathered around the mural that had been covered by bed sheets. After a drum roll initiated by professor Sulpy, three artists unveiled the mural and immediately the room filled with big smiles. Clearly, the artists were proud of all the time and hard work they had put into their mural. Spectators stood impressed as they applauded and complimented the artists.

“Visions of Hope” is an art piece representing humans in nature and diversity. With a variety of colors and different cultures depicted in the artwork, there was a lot to observe. Some of the communities represented in “Visions of Hope” include the LGBTQ+ community, BIPOC communities, people with physical disabilities and a wide range of ages were also represented in the mural.

Following the mural being unveiled, some of the artists described the process behind creating the art piece and explained its significance. 

“This is a scene reminiscent of Levee Park downtown, and from those reference pictures we built a photoshop document and kind of visualized what we wanted it to look like,” Sean Merchlewitz, a third-year art education and studio arts double major said as he introduced the class’ plans of action after they had decided on the idea of what they wanted to do and how they would collectively go about the project.

The artists had explained that they believed the mural had come together very well to showcase their ideas of people coming together in a community and creating a depiction of a welcoming environment while also including reference to the support of local farms and nature.

The mural was painted on a collection of five masonite panels and is intended to be a permanent mural in Watkins hall. While Watkins hall is projected to be taken down in the next several years, the advantage of the mural being painted on masonite panels is that they are able to be removed from the wall and reinstalled in the new art building.

“I feel like the fact that my photo was taken to be in it, it means that I am going to stay a part of Watkins for as long as Watkins is here,” Olivia Temp, a second-year art education major said. “It feels like I have my place forever at Winona State.”

Merchlewitz explained that the class started working on the mural mid October and finished the mural towards the beginning of February. 

“I naively gave them six weeks,” Sulpy said. “That was not the case; I think half or more of the class came in and worked their butts off over winter break and the first six weeks of class.”

Merchlewitz explained that he was able to appreciate all of the diversity and elements that they were able to depict in the mural but also the collaboration process behind creating the mural.

“Getting to bond with all these awesome, talented people, that was really influential for me,” Merchlewitz said.

While “Visions of Hope” represented a lot of diversity, it also featured some of the artists in the painting as well. The artists that were featured explained that it meant a lot to them to have that representation and idea of themselves included in the painting to show that the students at Winona State play a big role in the community.

Professor Sulpy explained that although her students were the main contributors of the mural, she was still able to help guide them throughout the process.

“The individual passion that came out, towards the end of the semester, and even this semester,” Sulpy said. “It was really lovely to see just how dedicated these guys were.”

When Sulpy was expressing her gratification for her students, she explained that there were half a dozen students that showed through and displayed extra effort in the project.

Many families of the artists, fellow Winona State students, and Winona State staff came out to show their support of the Fall 2022 Art 317 Contemporary Studio Practices class who dedicated a lot of time and effort into the mural “Visions of Hope”. After the unveiling, the spectators gathered at the entrance of Watkins Hall while they discussed the artwork and enjoyed refreshments, pizza and dessert.