Published: Sept. 9, 2021 By

Seven science-inspired, larger-than-life artworks are welcoming students, staff and faculty back to campus this fall. 

Completed primarily in the past year-and-a-half during the COVID-19 pandemic, this new series of public murals in and around campus was facilitated by the Nature, Environment, Science & Technology (NEST) Studio for the Arts.

“What NEST is trying to accomplish with these murals is to remind people that we are a community, and encourage people to find ways to safely gather, in front of a piece of artwork, and give them space to think a little bit differently,” said Erin Espelie, NEST co-founder and associate professor of Cinema Studies & the Moving Image Arts and Critical Media Practices. “They’re a reminder of how and why we share ideas among a local, physical community.” 

Founded in 2018 and located in the CASE building on main campus, NEST is a network of faculty, students, centers and campus units that combine artistic practice and scientific research. These murals are the result of NEST graduate student fellowships, the Environmental Futures 2020-21 Mellon Sawyer Seminar, and several campus and community collaborations. 

Community members who take a picture of or with these murals with the hashtag #nestmuralquest and tag @nestcuboulder on Instagram between Sept. 9 and Oct. 10, 2021, will be entered to win a $50 gift card at the CU Boulder Bookstore. Each mural counts as one entry, with up to seven entries per person. Winners will be chosen via raffle on Oct. 15. 

As students resume in-person classes this fall, for freshmen as well as many sophomores, it’s a novel experience. Espelie said she hopes the murals inspire students to explore campus more fully, to go and see places they might not have otherwise and discover the breadth of disciplines—and cross-disciplinary studies—that CU Boulder has to offer. 

“More than ever, this is a time when we need exposure to new ideas,” said Espelie. “We welcome everyone in the community to participate in the mural quest, and ideally we’ll spark conversations.” 

Inspired by the world around us

Toward the top floor of the ATLAS building on main campus, those who take the north stairs are now greeted by a new artwork as they approach the third floor. Seven rows of rectangles, ranging from a rusty brown one at the base to a bright, golden yellow one at the very top, may at first seem simplistic. 

But designed and installed by Sophie Adams, a recent graduate from the ATLAS Institute, The Golden Rectangle aims to capture the movement of old filmstrips, and pays homage to the golden ratios in cinema studies—both in color and proportion of the shapes themselves. 

“I've always wanted my art to inspire people to learn more about whatever I'm making art about,” said Adams. “Art is such a cool way to get people interested and involved in topics that they wouldn't have necessarily come across themselves. It’s giving anyone and everyone the opportunity to get to learn new things.”

Over on east campus, drawings of birds, bugs and botanicals now adorn the glass at the entrance of the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community (SEEC) building, a fitting artwork for the home of the environmental studies program, the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and the Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC).

For Joanne Marras Tate, one of the creators of Field Day and a graduate student in the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI), the connection between art and science is a no-brainer—and she hopes that the artwork gets people to think more about the natural world. 

“They might see the mural and think, ‘Wow, this is so cool that an artist made this,’” said Tate. “I would hope that students, faculty, staff, everybody takes a chance to admire the murals, and try to find out a little bit more about the fauna and flora around them.” 

And for local Colorado artist Trine Bumiller, the artist behind River of Stars in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences building, the goal was to offer hardworking students a taste of the beauty of stars and space, reminding them of the awe and wonder that likely led them to the building in the first place. 

“I think we need to experience art wherever and whenever we can,” said Bumiller. “Especially in a place where people aren't necessarily expecting to.” 

What to see 

Be sure to include #nestmuralquest and tag @nestcuboulder through Oct. 10 for a chance to win a $50 gift card at the CU Boulder Bookstore.

Neighborhood Watch

Center for Academic Success & Engagement (CASE)
Created by: Emily Beam, Joelle Cicak, Pat Clark, Nina Elder, Joanne Marras Tate, Robert Martin and Mathew Sharples

The Golden Rectangle

ATLAS Institute
Created by: Sophie Adams

River of Stars

Aerospace Engineering Sciences
Created by: Trine Bumiller

Pure Exploration

Aerospace Engineering Sciences 
Created by: Ellie Marcotte

Field Day

Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community (SEEC) 
Created by: Joanne Marras Tate, Robert Martin and Mathew Sharples

Up Close

Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building
BioFrontiers Advanced Light Microscopy Core

A Fight for Sacred Land

6th Street Boulder Creek underpass (off campus) 
Created by: Lauren Redniss