Fine arts team transforms McCombs wall into a skyscape mural

Natalie Venegas

A skyscape painted in shades of blue, orange, purple and yellow now covers a once-blank concrete wall outside the McCombs School of Business after a team of students worked to transform it last semester.

Karen Maness, Texas Performing Arts scenic art supervisor, was hired by the McCombs staff to lead the mural project after employees said they became tired of the plain concrete view outside their offices. 

“It was a great opportunity to create a painting for the McCombs School of Business that would transform the view outside of the nine offices that face this mural,” said Maness, a theatre and dance lecturer. “They were seeking an image that would completely transform that space and change the quality for their employees.” 

Three fine arts students and a Texas Performing Arts staff member joined Maness on the team that worked on the mural, which was completed just in time for the spring commencement. 

“The initial idea was to hire an outside contractor to paint the design, but with our team we both had the ability to paint it and execute it,” Maness said. “We were able to use the money that would have gone to hiring an outside company and give the students scholarships.”

Tucker Goodman, a theatrical design graduate student, was one of the team members. He said working on the project was both exciting and challenging because it was something he had never done before. 

“It was kind of a daunting task,” Goodman said. “It was similar to the kind of backdrops that I do in theater. It was a great opportunity overall, and we all felt satisfied with the work that we did.” 

Team member Iman Corbani said Maness was a mentor to her during the project. Although many challenges, including time constraints and weather, came up throughout the project, Corbani said Maness made sure the students were able to contribute.

“Painting a skyline was perfect for the location, and Karen gave each of us artistic freedom,” said Corbani, a theatrical design graduate student. “If we painted something and she liked it, then we got to keep it in the painting, and that was pretty important.”

Maness said she was glad she got the opportunity to create artwork that would remain permanently at UT. 

“It took a collaboration of many different departments to make this happen,” Maness said. “It’s exciting to create monumental work for a public space that will transform an environment.”