Indiana State University Newsroom

Student painter leaves her mark on University Honors Program

December 8, 2008

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Indianapolis senior Rachel Purpura maybe a relative newcomer to painting, but she will leave a lasting impression at Indiana State University.

Purpura, a fine arts major, has finished three paintings that will be on display in Rhoads Hall, which has been recently renovated and is now home to the University Honors Program. The residence hall now houses classrooms, meeting spaces, study/gathering space, a student art gallery and office space for honors administration and the Honors Journal in addition to being a home away from home to honors students.

"I knew we were going to move into a new location that had a gathering space for students," Bierly said. "I was in favor of the space being graced by student works of art."

Purpura was the perfect person to be commissioned to do the paintings, according to Bierly.

"Rachel is an extremely dedicated and creative student, and I knew that dedication translated to her painting," he said. "I was familiar with her work and I wanted to challenge and engage a very talented President's Scholar who happened to be in my geography 111 class at the time."

Bierly told her about the project and she accepted the challenge.

"It was very serendipitous," he concluded.

It was a chance of a lifetime for Purpura, who has been painting only a short time. "

"I really only picked up painting when I came to ISU," Purpura said. "I'd only painted once in high school and it was very experimental."

She gained the skills and knowledge she needed in an introductory painting class taught by Nancy Nichols-Pethick, an assistant professor of art.

I had no idea how to paint before I came here. Nancy has really introduced me to a lot of mediums and a lot of techniques. She's given me a firm basis and I've been able to experiment from there," she said.

With that foundation, Purpura has been introduced to oil, acrylics, watercolor and mixed media. If she's not painting in her studio, she can be found in her residence hall room, located on an honors floor.

"I do a lot of paintings in my room," she said. "People can stop by my room and just check out what I'm working on. It's a really good influence to have behind me and I appreciate the support."

Purpura, who has been in the University Honors program since coming to Indiana State, started the creative process with three words that she felt described Indiana State's Honors Program -- exploration, experience and excellence.

"She came up with those on her own," Bierly said. "It meant a lot to me that she came up with that description on her own because those are the words I would use to describe our program."

Purpura poured over stock photography, looked at the works of other artists and consulted a reference book on the cosmos before coming up with her sketches for three separate, scenic images featuring a mountain, outer space and an underwater cave.

"I think you can still take these paintings to encompass those three meanings. The paintings offer a lot of possibilities for interpretation," the artist said. "People can take them to mean whatever they want and use them to inspire them in different ways."

Bierly hopes the student artwork will inspire both current and future student in the University's Honors Program.

"I hope the paintings will inspire them to look at their own gifts and will give them something to aspire to," Bierly said. "I also hope students become aware of the opportunities that are around them."

Purpura, who is looking at a career in illustrating, is grateful for the opportunity that found her.

"It's been a great opportunity," Purpura said. "I'm just very excited they're going in the Honors Hall. I just love the idea of having something of mine being part of the university."


CONTACT: Greg Bierly, director of the University Honors Program, (812) 237-3225 or

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

Story Highlights

Indianapolis senior Rachel Purpura maybe a relative newcomer to painting, but she will leave a lasting impression at Indiana State University, with three of her works on display in Rhoads Hall.

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