Graduate students Barry O’Keefe and Amanda Morris touch up the “Eldridge Mural”

Photographer: Matthew Forsythe

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Project restores famed Seigfred mural

A restoration project has been underway this summer to preserve a storied mural on the Ohio University campus.

Printmaking students Barry O’Keefe and Amanda Morris, both graduate students in the School of Art + Design, took on the task of restoring the mural, located under the archway outside of Seigfred Hall.

Painted by OHIO Professor Aethelred Eldridge, the black-and-white mural is a familiar sight not only to current students and staff but also alumni and community members. Eldridge, currently Professor Emeritus of Painting, started teaching at the University in 1957 and is something of a legend around campus. His painting, which often includes serpentine figures accompanied by esoteric writings, has been described as avant-garde.

“I’ve always liked this mural,” said O’Keefe, who is in his third year of the MFA Printmaking program. “I think Aethelred’s a super interesting part of the history of OU.”

The current version of the mural, painted by Eldridge in 1987, is its fourth iteration, which included several matching risers in the concrete staircase—as well as two concrete sculptures—below the arch. Eldridge painted the first version of the mural in 1966.

As part of the restoration process, the opposite wall was painted gray, and eventually the staircase—minus the newly restored risers—will be painted the same color, said David LaPalombara, director of the School of Art + Design.

The project, which was funded by Arts for Ohio, involved scrubbing down the walls, as well as graffiti removal by Building Services workers. Morris and O’Keefe then began touching up the figures, shapes and lettering with a variety of brushes.

Originally the wall opposite the mural was used for instructional purposes. Then, over the years, people started doing their own graffiti on the wall. Eventually, spray paint made its way onto the stairs and brick outside of the arch.

“It just got completely out of control—this last year especially,” LaPalombara said.

O’Keefe said he first became interested in the idea of restoring he mural after a part of the mural was spray-painted in 2014.

LaPalombara worked with the students to match up the colors of the mural and said they took care not to alter the original work. The team consulted historic photos to recreate parts that had been covered up or were no longer visible—a process they also plan to use to repaint the pair of sculptures. Exterior lighting also will be added, LaPalombara said.

LaPalombara said that Eldridge gave his blessing to the project, and a rededication ceremony for the artwork was planned for the fall.

“He was absolutely thrilled,” said LaPalombara. “It looks new.”