“Something for Us”: Calvin’s new underpass artwork

Calvin’s underpass looks different this year. The north wall of the passage connecting the campus under the East Beltline is no longer drab and grey. That’s thanks to Calvin senior and fine arts major Christine Vermeer.

“During my time at Calvin, I have been searching for ways to make art evident to other students, to staff and to visitors… I strongly believe that art has the immense power to affect communities,” says Vermeer, who sees the mural as an opportunity to both empower other artists on campus and spark discussions between passersby about what art means to them.

Just as Vermeer hoped, the community has noticed the change. “I think a touch of color never hurts, and that tunnel was waiting for a mural,” said Cecily Bobrowski, a junior studying marketing at Calvin. “[Vermeer] is representing student work and the future of art at Calvin.”

Photo courtesy of Brent Williams

Emma Vanderkolk, a senior social work major, stated that the mural always makes her smile when she drives past. “It’s really nice that it was a Calvin student who did it… it’s a really amazing way to promote community and highlight students’ unique values and talents,” she added.

Brent Williams, director of exhibitions at the Center Art Gallery, assisted Vermeer in building a portfolio, making a proposal for the piece and applying for permissions. He describes the art as “a celebration of the Calvin experience” and is excited for art exhibitions to extend beyond the gallery itself, ending his reflection by saying he is “thrilled with the outcome.”

Described by the artist as an “abstract landscape inspired by the campus itself,” the piece draws from well-known campus locations including the nature preserve, seminary pond, commons lawn and others. 

The artist’s statement, located on the west side of the wall, explains that the abstract landscape format allowed her not only to draw upon reality, but also her experiences and memories across the campus. It ends with a hope that viewers “will bring their own memories and observations to this piece.”

Grace Swanson
A section of Vermeer’s mural

Vermeer spent four weeks last summer painting the mural, which she titled “Something for Us.” It took over a year to design the project, create a portfolio and receive approval from Calvin, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and other agencies. 

The mural was painted from scaffolding using outdoor paint, brushes and rollers. Funding for the piece came from the Student Activities Office, the Center Art Gallery and the Art Department.

Williams stated that the mural will remain on the wall for four years, following which he is more than open to the possibility of a new mural being painted every four years.

Vermeer plans to showcase more of her artwork in a final show on campus in May 2020. Pictures of the mural in progress and related artwork can be found on her Instagram page @christinevermeer.art.