The University Record, April 16, 2001

Art professor has 6 ecosystems in room

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Wendy Baker, clinical nurse at University Hospital, paints the temperate deciduous forest section of the mural. Baker also is a student working on the project for credit. Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services
Look high, look low and look closely in between to find what lives and grows where. And then look again, to find what you missed the first time.

Joe Trumpey, assistant professor of art in science illustration at the School of Art and Design, has designed and painted murals that document several of the ecosystems of North America and a Caribbean coral reef. These murals will find a permanent home at the Detroit Science Center.

The murals, occupying a classroom in the Ford Learning Resource Center, will cover the walls of the area to be used for life science lessons for students in pre-kindergarten through college. Created in the Art and Architecture Building, the 12-foot-by-120-foot mural (cut into sections) depicts six biomes ranging from a temperate deciduous forest to life beneath the waters of the Caribbean.

From birds to mammals, fish to reptiles, and plants to invertebrates, nearly 400 species are specifically identified.

Involving students from his classes and the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, Trumpey and his team researched the food webs and life cycles of both plants and animals indigenous to North America’s mountains, wetlands, deserts, grasslands and the Great Lakes before applying latex wall paint and acrylics to the panels. The team also worked with the architects designing the renovation at the Ford Center, lighting specialists and a sculptor in Columbus, Ohio.

The entire project becomes interactive with doors incorporated into the panels that open to reveal nocturnal animals, a skunk family or the human effects on the biome. The mural also will incorporate a rock and mineral collection and have two living aquariums.

“This has been a terrific project, which has the potential to affect countless visitors to the Detroit Science Center,” Trumpey says. “Hopefully, viewers will leave this classroom with a greater curiosity and respect for our natural world. It has also provided an excellent opportunity for our University students to get involved with a very large real-world project.”

Trumpey’s team spent last semester planning and has been painting since early January to have the mural ready for installation in June.