We worked with the Buckingham Companies to design and paint a 1000 sq ft mural in the gymnasium of their newly-built property in West Lafayette, called Purdue Research Park. The residents at the park will almost all be engineering students, mostly in post-graduate programs.
The company wanted the mural to be completely abstract, with no figures or recognizable objects. Since we were working in the shadow of Purdue University, it seemed very natural to refer, at least obliquely, to the university’s storied involvement in space travel, and especially the mission to land people on the surface of the moon.
The design of the mural thus evokes space exploration, and its connection to the engineers and pilots educated in West Lafayette. Its scale is meant to make those who visit the basketball court feel simultaneously humbled by the vast (infinite) expanse of the unknown and inspired to take part in humankind’s ongoing project to acquire knowledge.
Ultimately, the quest to reach outer space was made possible not by one great genius, but by the cooperation of millions of people across Earth, whether directly or indirectly. Though many stories have been told about some the people who were part of that, most of the people who were involved will never be recognized, and simply wanted to be a part of something great for its own sake. It is in that spirit that we might argue that space exploration itself is a kind of mass public artwork.