Mural to be dedicated Aug. 14

August 11 2008

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The second mural in the Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural Project will be dedicated during a brief ceremony Thursday, Aug. 14, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, located at 1101 S. 13th Street.

The multi-colored mural, "Teaching the Young to Fly," was created over the course of six weeks by Hammond artist Tom Torluemke and 12 art students of assistant professor Nancy Nichols-Pethick.

Torluemke, raised in inner-city Chicago, has been a painter, sculptor, muralist, gallery owner, educator and arts activist for more than 25 years.

Through the efforts of Torluemke and the students, the mural not only exposes the neighborhood to art and provides a bit of a history lesson but it also celebrates the diversity found in Terre Haute.

The eclectic work of art takes you through a passage of time and includes images of notable figures such as Willa Brown, Lyda John and Charles Hyte.

"Many African Americans featured on banners hanging throughout the city can be found in the crowd," said Torluemke, adding he hopes a plaque that will identify the historical figures will be installed in the future.

Indiana State art students played an important role in bringing the historic figures to the larger-than-life canvas. The students sketched the citizens while Torluemke painted them from their designs.

"Without the student sketches, the mural would not have been as particular to Terre Haute," Nichols-Pethick said. "The students were very interested in finding out about the subjects they were drawing."

This work is more than just eye candy, said Torluemke. It's art with a message.

"The idea behind the mural is that younger people can learn lessons sometimes from older people who have lived for some time," he said. "By sharing those experiences, the young people will have a better life."

The mural project was a perfect fit for the Chicago native. He is a staunch advocate for the educational role of the arts and for strengthening the social and civic bonds between young people and their communities. Through multiple public art projects, he has successfully used the visual arts as a means to train diverse groups of young people in life-affirming skills that allow them to realize their unique potential to improve society.

According to Nichols-Pethick, the pairing of Torluemke with aspiring student artists resulted in a collaborative, creative atmosphere.

"Tom was very generous when it came to student interaction," she said. "He let the students be as involved as they wanted to be, from planning to preparation to implementation, and he also let the students sign the mural when they were done. His approach is one of true collaboration."

"The students learned more about their community while studying under a versatile, nationally recognized artist," she said.

Torluemke's professional accomplishments include work in a variety of mediums -mural painting, stage design, mosaics, acrylic painting, watercolor, and sculpture. One of his most recent projects was a commission to create two terrazzo floor designs for the new Indianapolis International Airport. He's also done a mural for the Special Collections area of the new Indianapolis Central Library.

He and his wife, Linda, own Uncle Freddy's Gallery in Highland. Founded in 2002, the gallery was named in honor of Torluemke's deaf and mute Uncle Freddy who lived with Tom and his family. Throughout his childhood, Torluemke and Uncle Freddy would spend many of their days together and in order to communicate, they would draw pictures to each other describing what each wanted to do that day.

"My experience with Uncle Freddy is the main reason I became an artist," he said.

This is the second mural done in conjunction with the Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural Project, in honor of the late muralist from Terre Haute, who created several large works of art in public buildings throughout the city, including in the entrance to Woodrow Wilson Middle School and in the University School on North Seventh Street. The first mural was completed in Spring 2006 at the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club.

The mural project, founded by ISU art educator Brad Venable and Nichols-Pethick, was funded was funded by a City of Terre Haute Arts Support Grant as well as a grant from Indiana State's Center for Public Service and Community Engagement.


Contacts: Brad Venable, assistant professor or art, (812) 237-3721 or  

Nancy Nichols-Pethick, assistant professor of art, (812) 237-2638 or  

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or

Bookmark and Share

Story Highlights

The second mural in the Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural Project will be dedicated during a brief ceremony Thursday, Aug. 14, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, located at 1101 S. 13th Street.

Bookmark and Share