Students design brilliant, colorful art for EMU's historic preservation offices

by Emily Vontom, Published May 22, 2013

YPSILANTI - When the faculty and staff of the historic preservation program at Eastern Michigan University decided they needed to update and redecorate their offices, they didn't have to go far to find inspiration.

"I saw several students walking on campus with a De Stijl design canvas," said Ted Ligibel, director of the historic preservation program. "We wanted to redo our offices in a midcentury modern theme and this was a win-win proposition."

EMU art students show off their De Stijl style artwork.

Ligibel approached Richard Lappin, the professor of the art students, in an effort to involve them in the redesign of the offices. Lappin and his students were thrilled to participate in the project.

"We ended up having 12 students create pieces for our offices as their final projects," Ligibel said. "It was a neat way to use EMU student work by installing it in the building. And it fit with the design."

De Stijl  (pronounced deh style) was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917 that was popular through the early 1930s. According to Ligibel and Lappin, De Stijl designs are very popular in historical preservation nationwide. Students are also very interested in the art because of the use of clean lines and primary colors.

"This style resonates with young people visually because it 'looks so cool' and has a brilliant energy visually," Lappin said. "The beauty of the De Stijl movement, aside from its bold minimalistic beauty and precise compositions, it its principles to unify people culturally through a harmonious modern spirit of form and visual language."

Because the paintings are placed on campus, Lappin said that his students are considerably more excited and proud of their work. Because of the project, Lappin is getting additional requests for projects from his students in upcoming semesters.

"I've already had requests from the public, for fall semester, to have my students paint their personal vehicles or other objects, for class projects," Lappin said. "This is no doubt a response to people outside of the art department seeing the great work the students produced in the recent winter semester."


Emily Vontom

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