Deep in historic Avondale, Jacksonville, professor Nofa Dixon and her special projects art class are working on the next mural for the UNF campus.
It will be their largest piece yet — a mural of a cloud-filled sky that will greet gym-goers in the Student Wellness Complex at the top of the stairway to the second floor.
Since 2009, Dixon has used her art studio at her own home to provide a space where students can work on large public pieces of art.
Students go to Dixon’s studio two days a week at normal class times. Most come in on weekends as well — extra hours are expected.
Dixon chose to host the class at her own studio for a number of reasons. Space is one. Another is the smell from the glazes.
“We don’t want to expose everyone to that odor,” Dixon said.
This semester, Dixon started with all new students — none had worked in her special project class before.
The students who work on these pieces of campus art were selected not just for their skills but for their ability to work as a team.
“I don’t want students who have egos that are too fragile, or get too involved with considering a certain part of the mural as theirs,” Dixon said.
She finds that overglazes allow for errors to be easily corrected and that they combine the best of attributes of watercolor and acyclic, although the smell is unpleasant.
“Each tile gets fired 10-15 times, slowly,” Dixon said. “Sometimes we end up with breakage due to stress of being heated and cooled.”
Carly Ivey, a painting and printing junior who is working on the current piece, said she likes the change of pace of getting to work at a studio. She said the group of students has been easy to work with.
“There haven’t been any issues with conflicts between us,” Ivey said. “I’m glad we make a good team.”
Progress on the piece had been slow by mid-semester, but Dixon hopes that they will get the mural done close to the end of the semester. Dixon said the piece, which was requested by Student Government, is projected to be installed in May.
Over the years, Dixon’s class has created many works of art around campus:
Photos by Randy Rataj.
Installed: fall 2009 – spring 2012
The decorated columns celebrate different aspects of Northeast Florida, from natural to cityscapes. From building two, counterclockwise, is a column that features foliage and swamps, the second, closer to chop’d and wrap’d, is ocean and river with birds and a surfer riding a wave. The third has a city skyline with a sunset and philodendron leaves and a postage stamp of florida. The fourth column features a hurricane and tornado — it also has debris as 3D element popping off the tornado.
Side of the Osprey Cafe
Installed: fall 2012
This mural was originally intended for the new Biology Building, but ended up in its current location after faculty disputed its placement. Seeing the details in this mural may require binoculars. Within the mural of an Osprey building its nest, there are miniature portraits, names, and even a mini version of Dixon holding a neighborhood cat.
Wall by Alumni Square Outtakes
Installed: fall 2011
Tucked into the plaza between Outtakes and soon-to-be Chick-Fil-A is the nest where fledgling ospreys will be nurtured. There are student names and even a Where’s Waldo on this one.
Building 2 second floor east entrance
Installed: spring 2012
On the east face of the second floor entrance to Building Two is the Osprey face. This one includes mini portraits of the students who worked on the piece.
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