Ever since Dr. Hilary Miller became director of the MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center and the center became a reality last November, she wanted to enhance the exterior walls in the first-floor hallway of the Keathley University Center.
She wanted the gray walls painted to reflect a welcoming appearance for all who approached the center’s office door. She also she hoped the work might be performed by a veteran. Meetings were held, but no artist’s name surfaced.
Miller consulted MTSU art professor Sisavanh Houghton, who had an idea: contact former student Randy Purcell, a military veteran who paints murals.
Miller reached out to Purcell, a professional artist who was more than up for the task but was busy at the time.
Miller eventually got her wish, and Purcell, a member of MTSU’s Class of 2009, got the artistic commission.
Now visitors to the center in KUC Room 124 — a one-stop-shop for MTSU’s student veterans and families — will be beneficiaries of the artist’s patriotic mural for years to come.
“It’s pretty cool that we have a veteran, an alumnus and a professional artist that’s doing this work,” Miller said of Purcell’s mural thus far.
“We want folks to see this and hope people will stop by to visit.”
Purcell, who has been commuting from his home in Hermitage, Tennessee, to campus for about two weeks to create the mural, said he and the center had the same goal: “to make people feel welcome, and this does that. … It has really brightened up the hallway.”
Trademarks from the 70-foot-long 500-plus- square-foot endeavor include:
- A large American bald eagle about to land.
- A U.S. flag, appearing to be blown by the wind.
- A painting of “Uncle Sam” on canvas, mounted to plywood and then framed.
Stars and stripes grace the walls throughout. The words “MTSU: Home of the Soldier Scholar” and “Welcome to the MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center” will greet guests.
Purcell even made use of the typographic font from the iconic Uncle Sam poster.
“I like the transition feel of the moving flag,” Miller said. “I hope it conveys an idea of transitioning to the university after serving in the military and eventually transition out to a career.”
Purcell, a studio art major who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, said he is “just honored to be here to do this.”
“It’s a great center and it’s my alma mater,” he added.
Purcell’s wife, Tracy, earned her master’s degree from MTSU’s Jones College of Business.
Purcell said he anticipates completing the mural by Wednesday, March 30. The Uncle Sam painting will be finished at home and added at a later date.
To learn more about his artistry, visit www.randylpurcell.com.
For more on the center, visit www.mtsu.edu/military or call 615-904-8347.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)