This Week in Kalamazoo History

Photo courtesy of Kalamazoo College Art Collection

By Katie Schmitz

Everyone has, no doubt, noticed the large mural in the cafeteria that takes up the whole wall above the entrances. Most people seem to just think of this mural as creepy, often times pointing out the strange and, in some cases, pained looks on the subjects’ faces. Not many stop to appreciate the history of this mural, and still, more question its relevance today.

The mural was painted by artist Philip Evergood. Evergood was appointed in 1940 by K to paint the mural in the current Cafeteria and to be the “Resident Artist” for the College. Evergood started work on the mural in 1941 and completed it in 1942.

Entitled the “Bridge of Life,” the mural is intended to show “scenes typical to Kalamazoo.” Evergood told the Index in 1940 that mural would be “an expression of people in this part of he country.” Prior to starting work on the mural, Evergood even traveled all over southwestern Michigan looking for inspiration.

Work on the mural was paused in 1942, however, when Evergood became ill and had to stay in the hospital for 12 weeks and undergo several surgical procedures. He was able to return to K and finish for the unveiling in May of 1942.

Philip Evergood was a very well known artist during his time, and has had his work displayed in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Evergood was born in 1901 and passed away in 1973 when his home in Connecticut caught on fire.

Currently, a new project is in the works to be placed in the cafeteria after concerns were raised about how the Evergood mural does not reflect Kalamazoo College’s growing diversity. The project titled “Kolors of K” was funded by Student Commission’s Innovation Fund last quarter and will be completed over the next year.

 

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