Sept. 24, 2011 | WMU News
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.--An 8,500-square-foot mural wrapping two sides of Western Michigan University's downtown Grand Rapids facility was unveiled to the cheers of hundreds of WMU alumni, friends and fans during a gala ArtPrize party Sept. 23.
A crowd of more than 200 gathered inside the WMU-Grand Rapids Graduate Center to listen to North Carolina-based artist Revere La Noue talk about the process that led to the creation of "The Epic Broncos." Attendees then went outside to join members of the WMU Band and an even larger crowd to watch the unveiling.
La Noue is widely known for creating fine art based on the stories behind the mascots of some of the nation's top universities, including Duke University, University of Notre Dame, University of Texas, Stanford University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. WMU is the first Michigan University to work with him, and the "Epic Broncos" art is now featured on his gallery's website, mascotgallery.com.
In his pre-unveiling talk, the artist recounted the time he spent in Kalamazoo learning about the University and its history and traditions. He met with more than 80 members of the WMU community, including faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends. He then combined that input with his own research on endangered wild horses in North Carolina.
"When it came time to put brush to canvas, I was loaded with ideas about what it is to be a Bronco," La Noue told the crowd, noting WMU's strengths and the unique position it occupies in a number of areas. "You have a lot to be proud about."
The building wrap was produced by Michigan firm Britten Banners of Traverse City, Mich. The artwork was installed in mid-September and covered until the unveiling with a black curtain. La Noue described the artistic challenges posed by rendering his creative work in such a large version, and he praised the University administration for being willing to "invest time, energy and resources on the initiative."
"It was a tremendous team effort, " La Noue said. "We built something pretty great, I think."
During the event, Jim Small, WMU associate vice president for engagement, announced the La Noue artwork would serve as the basis for a future fundraising campaign aimed at raising money for student scholarships.
The unveiling was part of the opening weekend of Grand Rapids' third ArtPrize competition, which began Sept. 21 and runs through Oct. 9. Artworks by more than 1,200 artists are on display citywide for the event. Last year, ArtPrize attracted 2.1 million visitors to Grand Rapids for the initiative that is the only international contest for public art that is solely decided by public vote.
In addition to his official entry on display at the B.O.B., La Noue is displaying his related sketches at the Tavern on the Square, 100 Ionia Ave., S.W., near WMU-Grand Rapids.