There was a big reveal last week at the Bone Student Center. It wasn’t the introduction of a new restaurant or the opening of a new meeting room. It was a more intimate affair and a significant moment for a Redbird family.
About a year ago, Jennifer Peterson ’86, MS ’97, Ph.D. ’19, told Event Management, Catering and Hospitality (EMDH) staff about a mural that her father , the late C. Louis Steinburg, created when the Bone Student Center opened in 1973. She thought the great work of art might still be intact behind the Bone Scholar Wall, which was to be removed as part of a ongoing revitalization of the 46-year-old facility.
EMDH Director Bill Legett researched and determined that the mural was still there. He invited Steinburg’s family to view the painting on May 23 after the wall was demolished. The moment was particularly poignant given that it was the artist’s birthday.
“Coming in and seeing it was amazing,” Peterson said. “It’s a very good memory.”
“It immediately brought tears to my eyes,” Steinburg’s wife Joan said, noting that her husband had died in 2014. “That’s in the past and that’s what I went through. J I always felt like I was there with him when he was painting.
The mural meant a lot to the family, which retains strong ties to the state of Illinois. Steinburg taught painting at the University from 1959 to 1993, and a scholarship established by an art school alumnus is named in his honor. Peterson earned three degrees at Illinois State and is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences. His brother, Rick, is an elder. He earned a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1978. Jennifer’s two children also attended Illinois State.
The family did not know the title of the mural. Joan was unsure what her husband had in mind when he created the painting, although this is typical of the improvisational nature of his practice. Nature inspired the abstract painter and rectangles featured in much of his art at the time. “Did we ever know what he was going to paint?” said Joan.
Joan said her husband felt honored to have had the opportunity to do such important work in a prominent space on campus. The board was located next to the Spotlight room near the west entrance to the first level lobby. “That was a big part of Bone. You walked in, and there it was.
The mural was covered in the 1980s when the Bone Scholar Wall was installed, Peterson said. Although the mural cannot be preserved, Legett is working to have pieces of the painting cut out and given to the family as keepsakes.
“When he painted it, he knew it wasn’t going to be something permanent,” Joan said.
Peterson thanked Legett for following up on his investigation and allowing the family to view the mural before it was taken down.
“It really meant a lot to me that he cared,” Peterson said. “We had photos and we had memories but we hadn’t seen him for a long time.”
Kevin Bersett can be reached at [email protected]