The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Mural Project began in 1975 when Chancellor Lee S. Dreyfus approached Art Professor Richard C. Schneider with the notion of perpetuating the university’s “Old Main,” which was in danger of being demolished, on the huge empty wall of the newly built College of Natural Resources. A university committee proposed further ideas which Professor Schneider incorporated into an overall wall design to represent the university (as the large human figure in the squared circle near the center right), and the Stevens Point environs ( in the cupola of “Old Main” at the left and the map of Portage County vicinity in the center). Wisconsin is represented by its official Badger and White-tailed Deer at the right, the Muskie in the center, and Robins, Violets and Maple Leaf at the left. Wisconsin history is symbolized by the representation of a native leader, Black Hawk, at the upper right. “Old Main” obviously has not been razed, but, as the historic center of campus, it may nevertheless be seen in its 1976 form as the unifying background pervading the above figures.
With computer technology donated by Control Data Corporation, the design was divided into 286,200 tiny squares, each of which was analyzed for light/dark values on a 28-step scale. Professor Schneider then created designs from the different Natural Resources disciplines which coincided with the requirements of the light/dark scale. The computer generated forty photographic negative printouts which were enlarged and assembled into a 6 by 18 foot composite of the mural in which each tiny square appeared as a ¼ inch square of the appropriate symbol for that value. This assemblage was divided into 646 panels, mostly 3 by 4 feet, designed to coincide with existing joints on the building itself.
Because no state tax revenues were authorized for the project, the UWSP Foundation in 1977 began soliciting gifts of funds and materials, finally totaling over $100,000, and soon volunteers were able to construct a temporary studio to house the project. For the next four years, volunteers from the campus and the community, supervised by student foremen, used silk screens to hand-print dark brown glaze designs on 2 by 2-inch beige ceramic tile. Created in numbers and designs required by the computer analysis, the glazed tiles were fired in kilns to 1350⁰ F. to withstand temperature and humidity variations. In 1981, workers began laying the tiles in coded sections according to the large printout. These sections were pasted together and then cemented to concrete-fiberglass “Wonderboards” which had already been proven weatherworthy in over a year of testing. In the summer of 1982, the last of the panels were completed and were grouted in final preparation for installation.
One hundred thirteen vertical rows of steel channels were anchored to the wall with over 7,000 screws to anticipate the twenty-five tons of tiled panels. The panels were screwed into the steel strips, after which the nine screws per panel were covered with appropriate tiles which had been kept out for that purpose. The spaces between panels were caulked for weatherproofing and the 51-foot high ends were sealed with edge-tiles. The 150-foot long top and bottom edges were protected with metal flashing and screening, respectively, to complete this impressive work of art.
Since the project was accomplished by many workers from many ages and walks, funding came from many sources and in many forms along with the grand size and complexity of the mural being composed of thousands of unique individual tiles, it is appropriate that the finished mural be entitled, in the words of our nation’s motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” “From Many, One.”