TNR Mosaic Gets a Facelift

Rachel Pukall

Over the summer, the mosaic mural on the South wall of the Trainer Natural Resources building underwent a much needed renewal to bring it back to its original glossy finish.

Conrad Schmitt Studios Inc. of New Berlin looked at the mural in May and found that a large amount of sediment had collected on the wall over the past 30 years, making the image look dull and dirty.

While the mural seemed to have collected a lot of dirt and debris, it was still in great structural.

Carl Rasmussen, the Director of Facilities and Planning, said that the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point had been looking into several methods of restoration for the past couple years.

“Work was completed in three weeks and it cost $38,850. The progress was inspected and coordinated on a daily basis,” Rasmussen said.

The ceramic wall, facing the sundial, was hand scrubbed using a light soap and then rinsed. The work was then contracted to ConradSchmitt Studios. It was selected by the Wisconsin State Division of Faculties Development in Madison, which administers most large construction projects on campus.

A two-person crew used a water- based cleanser and hand pressure back in July to clean all of the tiles on the wall. UWSP’s Environmental Health and Safety office also made sure the cleanser was non-acidic so it would not damage plants or contaminate the soil around the building.

“There is definitely more contrast and definition now,” Rasmussen said. “As work progressed, when comparing the completed panels against those not cleaned, there was a noticeable return of luster.”

The mural, which was completed in 1982, was designed by retired art professor Richard Schneider. Schneider was approached in 1975 by Chancellor Lee Sherman Dreyfus, with the idea to place a mural on the empty wall of the new building because he wanted to preserve Old Main, which was in danger of being demolished.

The original design for the mural focused on Old Main and its copula, but also brought in Portage County and the state of Wisconsin with the badger and white-tailed deer at the right of the mural and the Muskie in the center.

It also incorporates robins, violets, and a maple leaf on the left side. The history of natural resources and some symbols of the newly built building are also included.

Schneider originally created around 50 designs, of which 28 were selected to be showcased on the wall.

With the technology of the Control Data Corporation, the design was divided into 286,200 tiny squares, which were each analyzed for grayscale value. They were made into huge photographic negative printouts, which were divided into 646 panels, each 3 by 4 feet. They were then placed together by 113 vertical rows of steel channels and cemented to concrete fiberglass “wonderboards,” which were proven to be weather worthy.

When the mural was first going up, people were more concerned with possible damage from ultraviolet light and deterioration, but neither of these things were detected.

Rasmussen believes that the mural was originally constructed in the best and most cost effective way possible.

“There was very little physical deterioration after being exposed to very harsh environmental conditions over 30 years, concerning temperature extremes, freezing, thawing, wind, hail, rain and condensation,” Rasmussen said.

While the mural is in excellent condition architecturally, it will most likely need to be cleaned and renewed again in the future.

“Judging from the accumulation of dirt and grit, another thorough cleaning in 15 years would be advisable,” Rasmussen said. 

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