Main Menu

Art class is working on murals for Tabler Farm

ISSUED: 12 September 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Cecelia Mason

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Agricultural Innovation Center at Tabler Farm is serving as a large canvass this semester for a Mural Painting class taught by Sonya Evanisko, professor of art and painting program coordinator. Twelve students in the class are designing and will paint murals on the walls of seven buildings at the farm.

“It’s a big challenge because you have a really natural outdoor farm, and we don’t want to compete with nature, but we do know that these buildings can have a connection to one another through color, design, and form,” Evanisko said.

The students in the class started working on the project last spring. Throughout the summer, they researched everything from soil structure to animals to what the farm grows.

“One of the first things all artists do when they’re working with a client is research that subject,” Evanisko said. “For this particular project, the subject is sustainable agriculture—what the farm grows and provides and the native animals, trees, plants, and pollinators that live there. They are also trying to incorporate the aquaponics and the apiary into their paintings.”

Photo of two students working at a table in the mural art class.

Students in the Mural Painting class work on concepts for murals that will be painted on buildings at Tabler Farm.

Evanisko introduced the students to Illustrator Charley Harper’s work, which serves as inspiration for the style of the murals.

“Harper’s design aesthetic is modern, sophisticated, and utilizes clean geometric linework,” she said. “The animal and plant subjects in his designs utilize abstraction and limited color palettes.”

Like many of the classes in the Department of Contemporary Art, Communications, and Theater, Mural Painting offers hands-on experiences that help prepare students for the job market. Evanisko said the class teaches a whole host of skills, including how to collaborate with others and work with an art director.

“Many of these students will have jobs on a creative team where there are designers, photographers, and painters working with an art director to make sure that everything stays within the stylistic concern and always the priority is the client’s needs,” she said.

Sikara Sokel, a Bachelor of Fine Arts major from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, is interested in keeping arts alive in Appalachia and West Virginia, so she eventually wants to work with public arts programs. Sokel agrees the professional experience she is getting while at Shepherd is important. She’s also excited about working on the murals.

“It’s my first large-scale public art project,” she said. “This is not my typical style of art so being able to branch out into something I wouldn’t normally do for myself is a really good experience.”

Charlotte Puttock, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts in English major from Charles Town, West Virginia, hopes to go to graduate school and become a college professor. She believes Shepherd’s art program is offering her experiences that will lead to a realistic career path.

“I feel with a lot of art schools, people are limited to the classroom, but at Shepherd, we’re constantly branching outward and thinking about how we’re going to actually act within the professional world,” Puttock said. “I’ve gotten so many opportunities over the years to do stuff like that. We’re always interacting with the community and that’s what we’re doing with Tabler Farm.”

Laura Wilt, a Bachelor of Fine Arts major also from Charles Town, hopes to work in education and is soaking in Evanisko’s teaching style as she works with other students whose ideas and art styles are different from her own. Wilt enjoys doing the farm murals because she loves working with fruits and vegetables.

“That’s why I’m doing the vegetable trailer,” Wilt said. “I’m working with digital media to project it onto the veggie trailer to paint it.”

The students have planned the murals and made a presentation to their client, the farm managers. They will spend the rest of the semester painting the murals on the farm buildings.

— 30 —