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The new Faculty of Arts mural – a labour of love and community inspiration

We caught up with Matt Raw, the artist commissioned to turn a huge section the outer wall by the main entrance of the brand-new Faculty of building into a beautiful mural. Matt’s ceramic artwork, which is now complete after three years, is calledFaith in the Miraculous. It reflects everything we hope the new building will help bring to life – collaboration, creativity and innovation.

Beneath the surface of the artwork, there’s a story about how our community came together to inspire the colours of the piece, with local school children getting involved too.

Call out for colours from the community

Whilst chatting with staff and students that would come to use the Faculty of Arts building, Matt caught up with the University’s Community Engagement team. From his conversations, it was clear that this new building would also be a spaced used by and for the local residents and the neighbouring communities.

In spring 2020, Matt and the University team put together an activity pack and sent it to local schools, including Westwood Academy in Canley, as well as being shared with other residents in Coventry and Warwickshire to help inspire the colour choices for this public artwork. The tasks encouraged people to take part in some colour activities – selecting their favourite colours or using their imagination to choose colours which they thought went well together.

We were so pleased that over 40 people shared their ideas, and there was great feedback that it was an enjoyable act of escapism during the Covid-19 lockdown last year.

It’s all in the name

Matthew shared with us his inspiration behind the title of the piece, Faith in the Miraculous. As he puts it:

It was taken from Coventry Mystery plays which had travelled around the area celebrating different trades and different skill sets. The industry sponsored the plays, celebrating the skills and the products that these people made – it was a way to engage the public in what they did and to celebrate how they operated. The name also reflects a wide-ranging research project that I carried out, looking at post-war artwork in Coventry city centre, the Cathedral, the University Art Collection and then talking to lots of people.”

A sense of place

Photo by Sean Corbett

The local area has also been a big source of influence and inspiration for the artwork. The Baptistry windows from Coventry Cathedral (on the right as you walk in), with their spectacular array of colour, help draw the eye all the way up to the ceiling.

Other murals in Coventry are important too, such as the textured façade by William Mitchell and the tiled mural in the Lower Precinct by Gorden Cullen.

How it all came together

The 5x15 metre piece was no small undertaking, but one that Matt how now completed – bringing something wonderful to the centre of campus. The mural is made of ceramic tiles manufactured in Germany. Matt explained that the durability of clay tiles is obviously a big factor, but also the fact that they retain their colour so well and you can get some incredible effects with clay tiles, by mixing glazes to create a huge range of colour.

Working with clay can have its challenges too – it can crack, warp and even move with a life of its own! But as Matt shared with us:

“It can be a real challenge, but I love it and it’s of the earth and it’s direct and you can barely scratch the surface in a whole career. I’m excited by those opportunities.”

We’ll be organising a visit for the children from Westwood Academy school and others who took part in the creative process to come and see the artwork they inspired and to thank them for sharing their creativity.

We hope that the artwork is inspiring for all those who use the building for many years to come. The Faculty of Arts building is open to the public and we’re excited to share this beautiful new space with you.