Student-Painted Mural Graces NM Tech Campus Observatory, Oct. 3, 2005

Julie Heffernan

Right: Julie Heffernan with ECO mural. Click on image for bigger image.

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., Oct. 3, 2005 – A student-painted mural that is now gracing the front of the newest building at New Mexico Tech’s campus observatory will be publicly unveiled during the addition’s dedication ceremony scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Friday, October 7 at the Etscorn Campus Observatory (ECO), located west of the New Mexico Tech Golf Course.

The 90-foot-long by eight-foot-tall mural, which incorporates colorfully painted renditions of various celestial objects against the darkness of space, is the handiwork of several New Mexico Tech students who were enrolled in art classes offered through the research university’s Community College division.

In addition, the ECO Astronomy Resource Building mural includes a top border of white-stenciled silhouettes of zodiac symbols, which correspond to familiar constellations. The band of familiar astrological signs also extends onto a nearby domed enclosure for one of ECO’s optical telescopes.

New Mexico Tech graduate student Julie Heffernan was the primary artist who worked on the mural throughout the summer, although she is quick to point out that she received “a tremendous amount of help” from New Mexico Tech Community College art instructor Midge Grace and fellow students, including Georgia Raymond.

“We started the mural project in mid-June and it took us about three months to complete,” says Heffernan. “Now all that has to be done is an annual touchup, since the colors are sure to fade as they are exposed to the elements.”

The mural originally was commissioned by Dan Klinglesmith, faculty advisor to the New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club, when he and Astronomy Club members noticed that the white-painted wall of the newly built observatory building was reflecting a fair amount of light from other nearby research facilities.

“We tried painting the top couple of feet a flat black — and that helped — but it still left a 90-foot by 8-foot white wall,” Klinglesmith explains. “At that point, I realized that I had a very large canvas for someone to paint on, so I went and had a talk with Midge Grace, a Tech Community College art instructor.”

After viewing the long wall, Grace went back and discussed the possibilities for a mural project with her art students, including Heffernan, who says she regularly takes art classes as a “stress-reliever.”

“They presented me with a concept drawing,” Klinglesmith says, “and I said go for it!

“I am very pleased with the results, as are all the others who have had a chance to see the artwork,” he adds. “I think everyone involved in creating this mural can be very proud of their work.”