The halls and outdoor courtyards of the Art and Design Center at California State University, Northridge are decked with paintings, bright colors, figures and student projects. One of the latest additions is a mural that pays homage to CSUN’s hardworking Physical Plant Management (PPM) staff.
In the fall of 2016, Edward Alfano, chair of the Department of Art, wanted to give back to PPM, whose staff maintains the campus grounds and physical environment. PPM staff are also the main point of contact for all service and maintenance requests at CSUN.
Alfano assigned CSUN students in the Public Art course, who spent all year on the project. They completed the mural in May, and it’s on display at the Art and Design Center, just east of the PPM building off Plummer Street. It can be reached at the end of Building 500 or from Halstead Street, next to parking lot D6.
The mural tells the story of a day in the life of a PPM worker. Jason Wang, senior director of PPM, said the mural details the many roles and responsibilities of PPM staff, such as maintaining lights and air conditioning, postal services and campus grounds including athletic fields and horticultural features.
Alfano said he wanted the mural to serve as a token of appreciation for PPM staff’s dedication to CSUN.
“The real purpose of this mural was to recognize the work that PPM individuals have done, continue to do for the campus, and to thank them and acknowledge that the CSUN community appreciates all that they and all university staff provide for our students,” Alfano said.
Wang said he loved the idea of collaborating with the art department.
“We’ve worked with the art department on various projects around campus. Every time Ed Alfano comes to us and says, ‘Can we work on a project with you?’ we try to make it work as much as we can,” Wang said.
The location of the piece was perfect, adding real value to a bare spot at CSUN, Wang added.
“Before, it was [just] the back of a building,” Wang said. “Now it’s a fun, colorful and vibrant representation of what we do. I thought it was really nice of the art department to celebrate our work.”
The mural’s labor was jointly funded by PPM and took about two semesters to complete, according to Alfano. The Public Art class includes a workshop format that features speakers, demonstrations, field trips, art products and emphasis on studio skills, proposal development and service-learning activities.
Several student groups in the class responded to a request for proposal from PPM, with an attached timeline, budget and illustrations of their concept. These were presented at the end of the fall 2016 semester to a committee of PPM members. From the three proposals, PPM made their selection, and those students worked together in the spring to produce the mural.
Hedy Torres, an art graduate student, was one of the students who helped paint and design the mural.
“Everyone had a little section to work on, and since I do representational work like portraits and people, I decided to work on [painting] the staff,” Torres said. “The images of the people are based on real PPM workers. When one of the workers visited, he told me, ‘I want to be painted, since I will be retiring this year. I’ve put all my life into PPM and CSUN, and I’d like to be honored.’ We did a small painting of him at the solar parking facility, [in] the mural.”
Torres said she loved helping to create the mural and was thankful to the course’s professor, Kari Reardon.
“This was a nice experience — it was my first time doing a mural,” Torres said. “I found it hard to stay motivated sometimes, but professor Reardon kept us motivated. It was hot outside, everyone had different working styles, we had to erase work sometimes. But professor Reardon pushed us to do our best.”