Dec. 14, 2015Vol. 46, Issue 3

Academe revisited

Alum Re-creates Iconic Mural

Thirty-four years after alum John Pugh painted the illusionist-style mural Academe on Taylor Hall, the celebrated artist returned to Chico this fall to reinstall it.

Alum Re-creates Iconic Mural

In November 2013, the beloved mural was demolished to make way for construction of the new arts and humanities building, set for completion this summer. By then, Academe— located at the intersection of Salem and First Streets—had become an icon of campus and downtown Chico, so the University saved a special spot on the new building to re-create it.

Pugh (BA, Fine Art, ’83) painted the mural on-location as a student over five months in 1981. To re-create it, he traced the original mural before it came down, transferred the design to strips of material at his home studio, and installed those in the original mural’s near-exact location.

Pugh says that student project from three decades ago launched his now-signature style.

Pugh painting the mural in 1981. (Photo courtesy of John Pugh)

Pugh painting the mural in 1981. (Photo courtesy of John Pugh)

“This was the first springboard,” he said. “I got a lot of international attention, which was harder to do back then.”

To preserve the mural’s significance, the University carved out parts of it before it was demolished and distributed them as mementos to campus and community members.

Coming back to CSU, Chico, Pugh said he felt a surreal reconnection to the school he once called home.

“I owe this mural,” he said. “When I’m painting up there, all of a sudden it’s like traveling back in time—not even a memory. I feel like I’m back to being 20 years old and painting on this wall.”

See more photos of Pugh reconstructing the mural on CSU, Chico’s blog, Chico State Today.

Ernesto Rivera is an intern for the Department of Public Affairs. He graduates this month with a bachelor's degree in journalism. Reach him through Dec. 18 at paintern2@csuchico.edu.

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