Artwork in Memory of Campus Student Celebrates Diversity
Thousands of tiny pieces of tile, in a wide spectrum of colors, shapes, and sizes have been combined in a single piece of art, which now adorns an interior wall in the newly renovated Swift Building at Penn State DuBois. The circular mosaic depicts people of varying ethnic backgrounds and different countries, as well as species of animals found around the world. Fittingly, the piece is meant to symbolize the power of diversity and the commitment the campus community has made to promote and foster diversity. Just like the varied pieces of tile in the work itself, its theme represents the melting pot philosophy of bringing together people from many countries, religions, lifestyles, and backgrounds into one diverse culture. The work is titled, "Let Our Diversity Be a Uniting Force".
The mosaic was created by artist and assistant professor of education at Penn State Harrisburg, Anju Jolly. It has also been dedicated to the memory of Jordan Andrulonis, a Penn State DuBois student who tragically drowned at Treasure Lake in September of 2009. Andrulonis was a mechanical engineering major and Dean's List student. He was also a member of the Penn State DuBois wrestling team and active in intramural athletics.
Efforts to get the mosaic in place started when Chancellor Anita McDonald and Co-director of Academic Affairs Maureen Horan decided the wall in the freshly made-over building would be a great place to showcase artwork. However, the pair believed the artwork should be meaningful, representing something dear to the campus community. Horan contacted Jolly, who was an old friend, and the group brainstormed ideas for a theme. Jolly's imagination and talent did the rest.
"Each piece represents you, the people that make up the diversity of this campus," Jolly said at the ceremony held recently to dedicate the mosaic.
The dedication in honor of Andrulonis came together when Jolly first remarked that she did not wish to receive payment for her work, but would instead like to donate the art and see a dollar amount equal to its value donated to campus scholarship funds. Mark Freemer, of DuBois, who is also the chair of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students at DuBois decided to make that donation on behalf of his wife, Betty McFadden Freemer, in honor of her son, Andrulonis.
"The timing just seemed perfect for this gift," Mark Freemer said, recalling the initial conversation he had about the dedication with campus Director of Development Jean Wolf. "Jean had suggested I consider providing a gift to the campus for this project. So I forwarded a picture of the mosaic to Betty, and when she saw it, she noted how beautiful it was. After her response, it just felt like this gift to Jordan from her was meant to be."
The Freemers, like Andrulonis, are both alumni of Penn State DuBois, and feel their family has a deep connection to the campus that has made this even more meaningful for them. Betty McFadden Freemer said, "I am thrilled that Jordan’s name will be forever part of Penn State DuBois with this beautiful artwork. Jordan loved being part of the Penn State family."
That campus family is one that has grown in cultural richness in recent years, which the Freemers have also taken notice of, giving them reason to agree that the theme of the mosaic is appropriate. Betty observed, "The campus has become so diverse since Mark and I attended. It is wonderful that so many students are achieving excellence in the education that Penn State DuBois offers."
The reflection of the campus population that the Freemers see is exactly what the artist had in mind. Jolly worked at Penn State DuBois in the 1980's and 90's before moving on to teach at Harrisburg, so she knows the campus well.
"I knew I always wanted to come back and visit and I thought about what makes me come back. It's the unity of this campus," Jolly said. "When I worked here, it made no difference where we came from, we were all just one."
Jolly explained her inspiration for the work came from cultures around the globe. She said, "The people in the outside circle represent people from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and every place around the world. As do the animals; we have elephants, birds, and fish."
On a plaque that hangs beside the artwork, Jolly's own words describe her creation. The plaque reads:
"This mosaic depicts a sphere in which all of life is connected. The outer circle represents the diversity of people and cultures on earth.
Other circles show animals from eastern and western geographical regions, reminding us of our global connection to nature and the earth.
Vibrant colors and designs work together to produce a dynamic energy. The message of this picture is to 'Let Our Diversity Be a Uniting Force'."
On another plaque hanging near the mosaic commemorates the dedication to Andrulonis, which reads:
"Mosaic donated in memory of Jordan J. Andrulonis, by his mother, Betty McFadden Freemer."
During the dedication ceremony, campus International and Multicultural Student Services Coordinator Tharren Thompson spoke of how diversity, and the campus mission to promote it, extends beyond ethnicity. He said, "The definition of diversity on this campus is holistic. It's not just ethnic background; it's adult learners, it's people from different economic backgrounds, and so much more. Some may think this is not a diverse place until they come onto campus and learn that it really is. Then, they embrace it."
The ideal that Thompson conveyed is what spurred Jolly to work so tirelessly on this piece, spending 14 weeks, and 400 hours to create the one-of-a-kind work of art. Jolly said, "Never will I be able to repeat this again."