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Blossom on a scar: manhole cover paintings in WHU campus
Author:Hou Siliang  Date:2017-06-30  Clicks:

As the summer begins in WHU, it is noticeable that more and more streaks of colors start to appear in the once pale Campus of Engineering. If you look closer, you will be surprised to find this injection of color are from the manhole covers scattered around campus. Recently, a cooperative project was started by the Youth Volunteers Association (YVA) of WHU’s School of Urban Design and a public welfare team in WHU’s School of Power and Mechanical Engineering--the “Beauty Project for Scars” team from the Campus of Engineering. A reconstruction of manhole covers—a necessary yet unattractive part of public facilities—is taking place on campus and has yielded its first works of art.

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Painting of a dog

The whole project began when the two teams started to realize that they shared the same ambition—using art to brighten up the campus. “I actually got the idea in 2015,” said Wei Xuemin, head of the YVA. However, the project has not been carried out until 2016, and due to the lack of support, the first phase only covered areas around the School of Urban Design. Nonetheless, their first test turned out to be very successful. The “Beauty Project for Scars” team from the Campus of Engineering” soon reached out to YVA with financial support from the “Wei Ai Luojia” (“Tiny Love for WHU”) Foundation, a charity set up by WHU alumni. Working together, the YVA is responsible for the recruitment of volunteers and the painting of manhole covers, while the “Beauty Project for Scars” team is responsible for financial support, purchasing materials and applying for permissions.

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Painting of a fried egg

Since last semester, the project teams have launched several painting programs. Volunteers are generally recruited from the School of Urban Design since most of them have received enough art training at school. Staff members would accompany the volunteers while they create their own designs. “We also have problems,” said Wei Xuemin, “it’s really hard to control the time volunteers spend on their manhole cover paintings. Sometimes they would skip meals or even continue their work in the dark with streetlights and flashlights.” Despite the challenges, the manhole cover paintings soon gained public attention and became a huge success. These paintings are not only popular inside the campus, but is also becoming a hot topic on social media such as China Daily, Changjiang News and so on. After the Cherry Blossom Festival, the manhole cover paintings seem to have become a new tourist attraction for WHU.

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Volunteers working at sunset

However, the publicity of the manhole cover paintings also caused trouble for the project members. Ever since the project was launched, they had received various negative comments or even attacks from the Internet. “For example, some people don’t like certain patterns we used, saying they are unattractive, tacky or irrelevant to the school.” said Wei Xuemin. Deciding not to be hindered by the negative voices, the members took the criticism seriously and came up with some solutions. “We went through discussions and agreed on certain themes relating to Wuhan University, while leaving the rest to the artists’ own imagination.” Wei Said.

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Painting of animals

The project is still ongoing, and the members have come up with some new ideas to beautify the campus with their artistic inspiration. Apart from the covers, they also plan to paint certain patterns on the boards at school-bus stops to create more fun for students while they are waiting in line. They also decided to mark out the loose tiles with pictures on the pavements. With the welfare of the public at heart and a mind full of inspiration, they are truly acting to make WHU a better place.

 

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Marking out the loose tiles

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The painting process

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Painting of cartoon figure

(Photo by Young Volunteers Association of the School of Urban Design, Edited by Tang Yedan, Wu Siying, Edmund Wai Man Lai & Hu Sijia)

 

 

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