University of Oregon graduate paints mural at new Wesley Center
After staring at a brick wall on 25th Avenue and Harris Street, University of Oregon alumnus Nikolaj Byrdman drew a celestial sketch using a ballpoint pen.
After showing it to the building directors, he got approval to transform the wall of the Wesley Community Center into a mural, now under construction.
The mural is a colorful and vibrant collage of outer space. Byrdman said the painting represents movement, passion, exploration and awe — which he thinks line up with the values of the Wesley Center.
“Although you will not find any metaphysical inspiration in this ice-cold atheist heart, I strongly believe that religious differences should never be an excuse to avoid participation in movements that shape a more equitable world,” Byrdman said. “I will always gravitate towards wherever good work is being done, and the Wesley Center is a great place for that.”
Doug Moore, a Wesley Center board member, said that Byrdman used to go to the Wesley Center’s previous location at 13th and Kincaid to participate in events being held there.
Warren Light, pastor and director at the Wesley Center, said the move was necessary because the old location was too small to fit the center’s needs. The center provides free space for student groups, hosts identity and advocacy groups and facilitates free meals among other things. The new center should be big enough to accommodate all of this, according to both Moore and Light.
Light said he’s proud the center can display Byrdman’s art on the new building.
“[His] art is like the best of Eugene: bold, feminist, independent and unique — created by a young artist of color,” Light said. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from many students on the new building and the mural.”
Byrdman was born in Hawaii and moved to Eugene to study psychology. He got an office job after graduation and didn’t anticipate pursuing his interests in the arts; he was surprised when he was confirmed to paint the mural.
“The catalyst was enough people thanking me and telling me my art resonated with them,” Byrdman said.
The building is still undergoing renovations, and although Byrdman doesn’t know when the mural will be finished, he said it will be worth the wait.
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