Good Vibes: AU faculty, students come together to create mural



Driving down Scatterfield Road in Anderson, it’s hard to miss the stunning new mural that splashes across the north side exterior wall of Vibes Barber Beauty Spa. 

The local barber shop has been open since 2018, and was a recent client of Anderson University’s marketing management class in the Falls School of Business. The class, taught by Victoria Shaw, assistant professor of marketing, provides unique, hands-on experiences for students.

“In 2020, we launched a collaboration with Bankable at the Flagship to have our students participate as consultants to local businesses,” said Shaw. “Our students are divided into teams and given a semester-long client.”

Once students are matched with a client, the teams go to work developing goals alongside the client. Vibes wanted to grow their customer base, specifically for their employees and one of the issues presented early on was the lack of visibility of the new location. The students then had to devise a creative solution for this and other business challenges.

“Projects like this are important for many reasons,” said Shaw. “It teaches students how to solve ambiguous business challenges, like lack of street visibility. Students can’t learn how to undertake projects like this from a textbook. And with courses like Marketing Management, they can learn and test ideas in a safe environment. Plus, they have access to business owners and decision makers, which allows a deeper level of learning.”

To combat the issue of a lack of street visibility, an idea surfaced to create a mural on an exterior wall that would draw more visual attention to the building for drivers as they commute across Scatterfield. Bankable provided assistance in working with the City of Anderson for the financial and permit details and hired Anderson resident, and AU assistant professor of visual communication design, Holly Sims to serve as the artist for the mural.

“Although I paint less during the academic year, it is still important to me to pursue my passion and professional painting practice while teaching,” said Sims. “My colleagues and students have been supportive and encouraging with my public mural painting projects, and in return I hope I can inspire them as well to make a difference in their local communities.”

The idea of serving the community also resonated with Shaw, “Projects like this encourage engagement in the broader community,” she said. “As a faith-based university, engaging with your community is a key value that we encourage in business.” 

The class portion of the project was completed last spring, while the mural was finished over the summer. But that’s not the end of the story. Jason Higgs, associate professor of visual communication, will be giving a lecture in this fall’s typography class at AU discussing the process of creating and altering the type to make it custom and fit within requested parameters. The mural provides an opportunity for students to see the creation process and witness the final piece first hand so they can study what was done.

“Unfortunately more and more students are ‘living’ through screens,” said Higgs. “When our students print one of their designs their reaction is that of confusion because the only way that they have ever seen their work is on screen and most don’t take the time to create anything more than a mockup when it comes to application of their designs.” 

“[The mural] is affording our students a nice fun piece of art where they can see how professionals started with sketches and had to become fluid in the ways that the type was manipulated or how something like a pipe or wall bump would change within the design. These things can’t be done on a screen only.”

Higgs, Shaw, and Sims all agree that learning outside of the classroom is essential to students’ success.

“Active learning also empowers our students who are the future generation of entrepreneurs,” said Shaw. “It teaches valuable lessons before they have their own money and time invested in a project. This is especially relevant for Gen Z who is one of the most entrepreneurial generations.”

For Sims and Higgs, practicing their craft is also just as important as teaching it in a climate where art and design is constantly changing.

“We keep working on our craft to stay current and relevant,” said Higgs. “My job and my calling is to teach young students ways to communicate through design as well as build their passion for this medium. I don’t believe that I could honestly do that if I didn’t love being an artist and designer for myself and others.”

Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.