In September 2011, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln honored Dr. George A. Flippin's legacy with the unveiling of a new art project bearing his likeness at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center.
The iconic, four-by-six-foot mural-style portrait of Flippin standing proudly in his Nebraska football uniform – a white sweater emblazoned with a red ‘N' – was the culmination of the work of a dozen student volunteers.
The Creative Process
The Flippin Project, as it has become known, provided an opportunity to transcend cultural boundaries through art by enlisting the talents of the volunteers from Prof. Aaron Holz's advanced painting class in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. Holz and Jon Humiston, creative director at UNL's Office of University Communications, divided a black-and-white photo of Flippin into 24 equal-sized squares, then asked each student to paint two of them. No other creative instruction was given, so students could interpret and paint their slices of the overall portrait in whatever manner they chose.
The result is a fascinating patchwork of styles, colors, effects and interpretations that reflect the students' diversity while unifying to form the iconic image of the university's pioneering student-athlete.
Bringing History to Life
Students worked independently, researching Flippin's life and his contributions to the university, before putting brushes to canvas.
"One of the most amazing things about George Flippin's story was that despite being the first free-born generation in his family, he was able to use his incredible talent to rise beyond the racial obstacles of the time," said Kyren Conley, a senior from Alliance who participated in the project. "I was also proud to learn that despite the times of widespread segregation and racism, his team supported and respected him."
Crystal Sanders, another of the student artists, graduated in August. She said she was pleased with how the mural came together and that like in football it required a team effort by the student artists. In the end, she said it will help to preserve Flippin's legacy at UNL. The mural will remain on permanent display at the Center.
"I am very proud to be a part of the history of the school I graduated from and I am proud of the school for acknowledging art as having importance," she said.
In addition to the mural's unveiling, several speakers during the event will discuss Flippin's life, his impact on the university and his contribution to the state.
The Gaughan Center
The Gaughan Center, linked to the east side of the Nebraska Union, opened in 2010. It features 30,000 square feet of space, including student offices, tutoring rooms and areas for faculty, staff and students dedicated to diversity and multicultural programming.
Writer: Steve Smith, University Communications