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The Story Behind the Gateway Mural

(September 2000)

John Wehrle of Richmond is a lanky man with wild salt and pepper hair. During the Riverside summer, he spent 12 hours a day, six days a week, in a tunnel echoing with traffic noise. He knelt on concrete for hours, and climbed the heights of pipe scaffolding, to create a striking visual symbol for UCR.
The result is the Gluck Gateway Mural, painted on the eastern support wall of the University Avenue overpass. Completed after several months of intense concentration, in July 2000, it is a 190-foot long portrait of nearly a century of UCR, from early citrus research to the present day.

Armed with tints flown in from Germany, a stack of alumni magazines, and a $73,000 grant from the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation, Wehrle created a series of nine arches that honor people who have persevered through difficult circumstances and made UCR what it is today.

Wehrle said it was not easy to choose who would represent the campus, and he worried that someone would feel overlooked. But with the backing of a design review committee, he selected a dozen people who stand as symbols of this campus. They include scientists Joseph Norbeck, Noel Keen, Al Boyce, donors Rupert and Jeannette Costo, dancers Jennifer Twilley, and Christena Schlundt, former chancellor Tomas Rivera, novelist Susan Straight and two of her daughters, Gaila and Delphine.

They represent important scientific discoveries, the protection of citrus and other agriculture, the beauty of the fine arts, the generosity of private citizens and the history of California. Everyone who has contributed to UCR's legacy can find themselves within the textures of the imported German tints, and between the lines of the arches and columns that create a new formal entry into the campus.

Photographers Herb Quick, Steve Walag and Michael Elderman, among others, are there in the lasting images of the campus that inspired Wehrle's creative design. Architects and administrators who pored over building plans and brought permanent structures out of the ground can see their handiwork: the carillon tower, Bourns Hall, Anderson Hall and the Humanities and Social Sciences building. Students, staff and faculty are all represented in pictures of diverse, yet somewhat satisfyingly anonymous lab assistants, graduate students, artists, photographers and others. There is just enough anonymity to let everyone have a spot on the wall.

The Gluck Foundation, with its donation, recognized that this mural would be an important gateway and a bond between UCR and the larger community. Other donors are similarly interested in furthering the mission of the campus -- enough to endow faculty chairs, create scholarship funds, build new buildings and fund long-range research teaching and public service. The view beneath the University Avenue overpass, now much better than before, just emphasizes that ongoing relationship.

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