Hurst artist in residence Jane Kim’s monarch butterfly mural is erupting across the atrium walls of the Kimball Visual Arts Center at Weber State University.
Kim is a renown artist and painter with advanced training in scientific illustration, and her mural, depicting the Monarch butterfly’s lifecycle, is designed to bring awareness to an endangered species after an 80 percent decline in its population over the last 20 years.
Todd Oberndorfer, Weber State University’s Visual Arts outreach manager, originally approached Dr. Scott Sprenger, dean of the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities, with the idea.
“Jane does talk about art with a purpose, so it’s proper in this case to speak of a message,” Sprenger said. “Her intent, and ours, is to bring wide attention to the plight of the monarch butterfly as an endangered species. Weber State is the perfect site for this project because, historically, Ogden has been part of a major corridor for the monarchs due to naturally growing milkweed.”
Kim and her team selected three student interns from the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities to work on the mural.
The mural is the fifth in a nationwide series of Kim’s Monarch-inspired works, third in Utah, a natural stop along the Monarch’s North American migrating corridor.
Last month, local arts-based nonprofit Ogden First commissioned Kim for Monarch in Moda, a mural located on the east-end of Historic 25th Street as the flagship of the newly formed Nine Rails Creative District.
The mural quickly became a popular spot for photographers and onlookers.
Kim has enjoyed her time in Ogden so far. “Ogden has been so incredible in terms of how well received this project has been and how much real community effort has been put forth,” Kim said.
Kim began her relationship with the area last year while completing a residency at Summit Powder Mountain. She also created the butterfly banners at the 12th St. entrance to the Ogden Nature Center.
Kim resides in San Francisco but said she isn’t staying in one place for now. Her environmentally charged pieces are meant to be monuments to the geographical areas where the animals and insects she paints actually dwell.
Her first Migrating Mural project, funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, took place in several locations in California and highlights the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep.
Her detailed art is often hand-sketched, then transferred to scale. Kim was commissioned to paint on the walls of Facebook Headquarters and Cornell University’s School of Ornithology, a project that took over 17 months to paint.
Weber State and Ogden leaders are in talks to introduce an annual Monarch Festival to keep the plight of the butterflies on locals’ minds.
“I really believe, if it’s going to happen anywhere, it will happen here in Ogden,” Kim said.
Kim hopes the Migrating Mural project will inspire widespread conservationism.
“We always see this as a springboard for communities to do bigger and more collective things together,” Kim said.
Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, is deeply concerned about the rapid decline of the monarch population, down to 93 million from more than a billion. In 2014, Curry authored a petition to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.
“We could lose the monarch butterfly if we don’t take immediate action to rein in pesticide use and curb global climate change,” Curry said.
In June of 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide if the Monarch will land on the endangered species list.
The monarch is an important pollination vector for wildflowers. They eat and lay eggs on plants like milkweed, a species regularly sprayed with the controversial pesticide glyphosate.
Sprenger’s department asked WSU landscapers to plant milkweed on campus to help restore the local Monarch population.
Sprenger hopes the beauty of Kim’s mural, along with the plaque that will accompany it, will educate the thousands of visitors who come each year.
Weber State’s Arts in the Parks program, which Oberndorfer manages, helps to spread the Monarch message. The children of the program created their own Monarch-inspired art to be displayed throughout October at the O1 Platforms sponsored by Ogden First.
The community “Kaleidoscope” exhibition is now on display across from Kim’s Monarch building installation, inspired by the name given a group of butterflies: a kaleidoscope.
Kim will be holding a free lecture in Room 120 of the Kimball Visual Arts Center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 12. To see Kim’s mural progress via livestream, visit www.weber.edu/artscalendar.