Terrace Views

Gekas Lounge Murals Display Stories of Diverse Historical Figures

One of the murals in the Gekas Commons room of Memorial Union. Photo Courtesy of: Andy Manis

One of the murals in the Gekas Commons room of Memorial Union.
Photo Courtesy of: Andy Manis

As current Badgers and alumni celebrate the start of a new year, they can also celebrate the new and renovated Gekas Lounge.

Formerly known as the Trophy Room in Memorial Union, the space was renamed after a generous donation from alumnus Ted Gekas.

The room located just behind der Rathskeller is known for its large, colorful murals created in the mid-1990s as a lasting representation of students of color at UW-Madison.

The murals share stories of historical events and specific individuals from multiple ethnic groups whose lives serve as inspiration for UW-Madison students. The images aim to remind us of the true and sometimes painful contributions people of color made to the United States throughout history.

The murals represent multiple historical figures, such as Chief Black Hawk, who defended Native American land in the 1830s, and abolitionist John Brown.

As a UW-Madison student, Miguel Guevara (a 1995 graduate) served as the Directorate Cross Cultures director and played an active part in the mural creation. “The most rewarding part was working across campus with different multicultural groups,” Guevara said. “Each group had a lot of rich history, and we learned a lot about each other while creating the space.”

Enthusiasm for the Gekas Lounge multicultural murals at Memorial Union began in 1993 with the forming of the Multicultural Mural Committee. The forming of this committee by students received strong support from the Union Council, the governing board of the Wisconsin Union.

The committee selected Leo Tanguma as the artist tasked with capturing the students’ vision.

By 2016, multiple generations of Badgers have studied and made memories under the colorful murals, which are safely stored while Gekas Lounge is completed.

“I’m interested in getting back some of the volunteers that worked on those murals for the reopening of the Gekas Lounge,” Guevara said. “It would be great to make a connection with students today, to bridge together both generations and cultures.”

Learn more about the details of each mural here.

Author: Ellie Herman

Ellie Herman is a senior at UW-Madison studying Journalism and Mass Communication and French. If she's not petting every dog at the Terrace, you can probably find her drinking massive amounts of coffee at Peet's in Memorial Union.

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