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WATCH: Wilson Library Mural Takes Image from Archives to Art

When artist Luke Buchanan created a mural for UNC’s Arts Everywhere Day on April 7, his subject was one of the most iconic buildings on campus: the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Buchanan, based in Raleigh, uses painting to explore the architectural concepts that he studied at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. His work typically focuses on urban scenes, abandoned buildings, and other elements of the built landscape.

The Arts Everywhere commission gave Buchanan an opportunity to create a work in real time, in a way that marries the past with the present.

Buchanan began by requesting archival photographs of the University from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives in Wilson Library. He settled  on one depicting Wilson Library under construction in 1929.

“We were delighted to work with Luke and Arts Everywhere,” said Maria Estorino, director of Wilson Library and associate University librarian for special collections. “Not only did he draw inspiration from our archives, but the project also activated the library as a creative space.”

Raleigh artist Luke Buchanan creates a painting of Wilson LIbrary for UNC's Arts Everywhere Day, 2017.

Raleigh artist Luke Buchanan creates a painting of Wilson LIbrary for UNC’s Arts Everywhere Day, 2017.

Buchanan envisioned erecting a “makeshift wall” in the Polk Place quad, so that “students who were watching the painting happen could see [the building] in real life at the same time.”

He was especially intrigued by the human element in the photograph he chose, one of workers atop what would become the Wilson Library dome.  He hoped that viewers would “think about the construction of the library and see me building a painting of people building the library.”

As it turned out, Arts Everywhere Day was too blustery for Buchanan to set up outdoors. Instead, he got to work in one of the Wilson Library hallways, inside the very building also taking form beneath his brushes.

“New Library UNC,” now hangs on the main floor of Wilson Library for all to see, a  reminder of the University’s past and a vivid link to the inspiration that Wilson Library’s rich historic collections can provide.

Video by Aleah Howell. Photographs by Jay Mangum.

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