BY ANNA JENSEN
The two new buildings on campus — Collier-Scripps Hall and the Science Connector Building —have made a bold statement as additions to Drake’s campus. But what may be even more impressive are the walls inside each building, which are clustered with artwork of all forms: pictures, paintings, murals and multimedia, each with a story behind them. The artists range from Drake students to local Des Moines artists.
Zuber is a junior elementary education major with a painting minor who is one of a few select student artists showcased in an art project found on the second floor of the Science Connector building.
The Carbon Project involved the students pairing with someone who had a specific passion in the STEM field and then combining the abstract side with the analytical side through research and artwork.
“The scientists talked about the research they did and the painter talked about their style, and then together they would build off of each other,” Zuber said. “The scientist created a poster presentation and the artist created a painting.”
Zuber’s partner works in computer science and what he calls “machine learning” heavily influenced the final product.
“There’s a program that you can put an image through in the computer and you pick one of the many filters it provides, and then the computer uses that filter over the image to pick out specific attributes that it thinks it’s seeing,” Zuber said.
Zuber’s partner gave her an example of the machine by placing a mountain-scape image in the software and after a round of filters the computer identified a bunch of dogs.
“The computer would see a cloud formation that kind of looked like a dog and bring the features out more and more in the image,” Zuber said. “Pretty trippy.”
Zuber said the idea stage took about a month and then another month for them to finish the presentation and painting respectively.
Zuber’s partner was interested in the physiological side of the machine, such as why it saw the things it did, so the initial step in the process involved Zuber painting different colors on her painting: orange in the lower left, blue across the top and more orange on the right side of the canvas.
After the colors went through the system and multiple filters, it identified faces in the blue colors, which were turned into dogs and fish scales in the orange colors on the left and a house in the orange on the right.
“I sent him along my process, and he ran it through the system which got more and more detailed in what it was seeing,” Zuber said.
This is the first foray into professional painting that Zuber has done for the public eye. It was also vastly different from the previous artwork she had done, which was mostly portraits or paintings that explore color theory.
“It was cool to show my mom how the painting evolved and how that was the main purpose,” Zuber said. “It wasn’t so much the final product but more so how its relationship with computers changed what it became.”
Zuber enjoyed collaborating with someone who had different ideas and perspectives than her.
“As a student, the point of being a painting student is not painting what you like, it’s learning different ways to find inspiration in different methods,” Zuber said. “It was a challenging way to push myself beyond my comfort zone.”
In the basement of Collier-Scripps Hall lies the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center. Its purpose is to promote civility and cultivate ethical leaders.
As you head down the steps toward the center, you come across a mural of many Des Moines staples such as the Capitol Building, Terrace Hill and Old Main. There is more meaning to this mural, though, beyond the buildings it showcases.
The mural, painted by local Des Moines artist Ben Schuh, showcases Ray’s life through a series of downtown Des Moines landmarks made significant by Ray’s presence.
Robert D. Ray was a political figure in Iowa in the late 1900s. He was the Governor of Iowa from 1969 to 1983 and Drake University’s president from April 1998 to May 1999.
Schuh included all the buildings and minute details in the painting for a reason. The Iowa Capitol was included since Ray served as governor. Old Main commemorates Ray’s time serving as president. Terrace Hill is an addition because it was the president’s mansion, and Ray, his wife Billie and their three daughters became the first family to live there.
A key piece to the mural is the Asian Gardens, since one of Ray’s biggest accomplishments while in office was his humanitarianism toward South Asian refugees. During his term as governor, he made Iowa a home for many South Asian refugees.
The project took seven days for Schuh to complete. He sketched on the wall and then spent around four hours each day painting the mural. Schuh time lapsed and recorded his work on the mural and posted it on his personal Instagram: @benschuh.
For Schuh, this mural fit in perfectly with his aesthetic as a designer. He paints mostly cityscapes. He is well known in Des Moines for his “Cheers” mural, which is found when heading into Des Moines from the airport. He finished working on a similar one for the city of Beaverdale last week.
“As a result of living in Des Moines, I tend to paint a lot of Des Moines,” Schuh said.
He paints cityscapes of all the major cities he has visited, his favorites being San Francisco and Chicago.
“It’s a personal form of storytelling … you get to see the type of traveling I do,” Schuh said.
A company called “Adore Your Walls” worked directly with Drake University to decorate the two new buildings, and they put out a proposal where work could be submitted online. This is where Schuh found himself as he submitted his artwork for “Lasting Legacy.”
The proposal outlined the desire for a painting that captured the legacy of Robert D. and Billie Ray. Schuh said his initial submission doesn’t differ much from the finished mural.
“I had to do a bit of research on the two,” Schuh said. “But I grew up here. So I heard stories.”
Schuh said that both political parties respected Ray when he was active in politics, and that is a rarity now, so Schuh was honored to do a mural that gave back to the city just like Ray did during his time as governor and as president of Drake.
As an artist, Schuh doesn’t much enjoy doing art just for monetary benefits.
“If someone comes to me and their goal is to make a lot of money, that project just isn’t appealing to me,” Schuh said. “I’d rather work with someone who has a passion for something or a desire to help.”
To see their work
Check out the basement of Collier-Scripps hall to find Schuh’s artwork and the second level of the Science Connector Building to find Zuber’s artwork.
In addition to theirs, check out the other diverse artwork lining the walls in each building. The second level of the science connector building is home to all student artwork that was a part of the Carbon Project.
To see a timelapse of Schuh working on “Lasting Legacy,” watch the one minute time-lapse video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3h5b7NK1-Q.