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Middlebury's Sabra Field Mural Project Up for Grant 

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If your primary association with college kids has to do with loud parties at night and beer cans found in your yard the morning after, heads up: Some college students sometimes do pretty cool things.

One of them is Kate Lupo of Middlebury College, who initiated the commission of a mural, to be created by the great Vermont printmaker Sabra Field. Called "Cosmic Geometry," the work will be on the east wall of the Wright Theater building (and not the math department, as one might think), and will be about 36 feet high, which if it were a billboard would be illegal. When it is completed in September, the mural will look like the model in the picture at right, minus the snow.

Field's mural portrays "a stunning array of cellular, plant, animal and architectural patterns in a grid form, grouped in themed quartets," writes Lupo in her proposal to the Middlebury Committee on Art in Public Places. But these are not just pretty pictures; the work has an environmental message: that humans and the natural world are connected by the same forms and patterns. Lupo expects the mural will "spark important conversations" about conservation. And in the fall, it will be a visual component of an Art & Sustainability conference at Midd.

Lupo believes firmly in art as a teaching tool. Inspired, she says, by the WPA murals created during the Depression, she suggests that artwork "provided hope to communities throughout a dark period in U.S. history." Hmmm, sounds familiar. In fact, she's so confident of the power of Field's mural, she's submitting it to a test. That is, in the form of a community survey, distributed next year, that will ask how effective the mural has been in linking the arts with community sustainability initiatives.

Anyhoo, like most public art projects, this one is relying on some serious fundraising, which brings me to the point of this post. Middlebury built in a matching-funds component to the mural project, and the Midd-based Brighter Planet Project Fund has recently named the Field mural one of its contenders for a $5000 grant.

Brighter Planet offers credit/debit cards with an environmental mission: Every time card holders use them, some money goes into a pot that in turn is given away in grants to grassroots projects that "help people fight or adapt to climate change." Lupo, not surprisingly, is thrilled her project was selected. That five K would turn to 10 instantly with a match from the college. Nothing like doubling your money overnight without having to fly to Vegas.

But the grant isn't hers yet; people have to vote for it, and the competition is stiff. To learn more about the mural, and vote for it (three times!) if you like it, check out Lupo's Brighter Planet Project Fund page. Voting ends June 15.

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Pamela Polston

Pamela Polston

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Pamela Polston is the cofounder, coeditor and associate publisher of Seven Days.

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