Marquette commissions new mural on Varsity Theatre

The+mural+will+be+on+the+north+side+of+Varsity+Theatre

Photo by Joceline Helmbreck

The mural will be on the north side of Varsity Theatre

Marquette University announced during the week of September 7 that it had selected artist Mauricio Ramirez to paint a mural that will be installed on the north-facing facade of the Varsity Theatre.

Ramirez is a 30 year old visual artist, mural maker and painter who has been creating murals all across the United States including 7 in Milwaukee. His murals focus on community identity in the neighborhood and culture and diversity.

“The mural project was actually envisioned long before this year; students from Marquette University Student Government, student affairs administrators, Haggerty (Museum of Art) staff and others were in conversations about this for some time,” Jacki Black, the associate director for Hispanic Initiatives, said in an email. “The idea got new life breathed into it after the University Committee on Equity and Inclusion conducted a Cultural Audit of our built environment on campus in fall 2019, an effort that I spearheaded but that relied on the volunteerism of about 40 students, faculty, and staff.” 

Black said the mural was meant to gain insight into the degree to which the university provides a welcoming environment for students and employees.

“Physical spaces tell stories – whether we intend them to or not. They can send messages about who is recognized and celebrated and can have a profound impact on one’s sense of belonging in a place,” Black said in an email.

Susan Longhenry, the Director and Chief Curator at the Haggerty Museum of Art, said that while the museum is facilitating the project, it is just one member of a cross-campus Mural Committee which includes various organizations from Marquette such as the student government and Black student council.

“Because the Haggerty’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Emilia Layden has extensive knowledge of Milwaukee’s artist community, she proposed artists to the committee and developed the Request for Proposal that was sent to each artist invited by the committee to submit a proposal,” Longhenry said in an email. 

Longhenry said the project began with a proposal made by MUSG to Marquette leadership last year to create a mural on the north-facing wall of the Varsity Theater. 

The mural committee invited several local minority artists to submit proposals. The mural committee then used a rubric to review and score each submitted proposal.

“All of the artists who submitted proposals had intriguing ideas,” Longhenry said in an email. “Marquette community members were invited to share comments when they voted, and many of the comments made about Mauricio’s proposal were variants on ‘it’s visually stunning.’ There were also many comments in favor of the mural’s focus on women who are Black, Indigenous, and women of color.”

Mauricio will incorporate feedback from three Sept. 25 listening sessions into finalized mural designs, Longhenry said.

“He’ll be painting between twelve and eighteen days during the month of October, working eight hours a day,” Longhenry said in an email.

At the listening session on Sept. 25th, Mauricio said he was inspired to create this image because he wanted to create something that was aesthetically pleasing while also conveying a message. 

“I try to create an aesthetically pleasing piece because I want it to be something that people will be proud of, but tell a story as well, and have some meaning behind it,” Mauricio said. “I spent a lot of time researching, creating, and substituting images … It was a lot of trial and error.” 

Mauricio said he imagines the image being very colorful and having historical figures in a shadow collage he creates. He said he can’t wait to reveal the image.

This story was written by Matthew Choate, he can be reached at matthew.choate@marquette.edu.