Did You Know?: Stanley Coulter mural

March 26, 2013  


Stanley Coulter mural

A mural inside Stanley Coulter Hall depicts classical columns and a globe, which is symbolic of the 12 languages Purdue teaches and the fact that the University's faculty, staff and students hail from all over the world. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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Across from a large picture window on the second floor of Stanley Coulter Hall is an indoor mural that represents the global nature of Purdue and its School of Languages and Cultures.

The mural, which spans about 50 feet along the building's north hallway, depicts a view of the Earth from space. In addition to the globe's soothing blue oceans and green continents, the mural portrays eight classical columns and a crescent moon.

The mural is representative of the 12 globe-spanning languages Purdue teaches, says Sidney Pellissier, professor emeritus of French. They are ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. The mural also reflects the fact that Purdue's students, faculty and staff hail from all over the world.

Pellissier was the assistant head of the school, which then was called the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, during the summer of 1994, when the mural was painted.

"We wanted the mural to have a universal theme -- particularly one that would relate to Hellenism, ancient Greek architecture and the genesis of Western culture," Pellissier says. "We wanted our students, who were studying languages spoken across the world and oftentimes were from very diverse places, to relate to the artwork."

Complete with a serene background of swirling clouds, the mural is painted so that every viewing position shows a new detail, such as the architecture of the columns or the tilt of the globe. The Earth is centered above Stanley Coulter Hall's doors, symbolizing the inclusive nature of the disciplines taught in the building.

The mural's artist is Troy Longest, who was a Lafayette native and a theater-set painter by trade. Longest previously had painted an outdoor mural for Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette and was well known in the area.

In addition to being thought-provoking artwork for students in Stanley Coulter, the mural also is visible from the building's outside. Lights illuminate the mural at night, allowing anyone who walks by at any time to see it.

The mural's message it is meant to convey to students walking outside is similar to what it is meant to convey to students inside, says Christiane Keck, professor emerita of German.

"We're trying to convey that our eyes at Purdue are on the world, and not just on Indiana or on English-speaking people," says Keck, who was head of the department when the mural was painted.

"We want everyone on campus to feel welcome and part of the fabric of campus life when they look at this mural."

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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