New Student Space Features Mural By Award-Winning Comic Strip Artists and Kent State Alumni
Popular comic strip artists Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers were at Kent State University on March 27 for the official opening of the new student lounge area called The Nest in the Kent Student Center. Batiuk, creator of the Funky Winkerbean comic strip, collaborates with Ayers on Crankshaft.
Batiuk and Ayers, both Kent State alumni, designed a wall mural unveiled at the event. The grand opening of The Nest falls on the 40th anniversary to the day when Funky Winkerbean debuted.
The reception with Batiuk and Ayers featured a signing of Batiuk’s new book, The Complete Funky Winkerbean, which is the first in a multi-volume series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking comic strip. The book, which is published by Black Squirrel Books – an imprint of Kent State University Press, contains an autobiographical introduction by Batiuk that shares his early attempts at cartooning, discusses his teaching career and explains the genesis of Funky.
The new student space, formerly called the Music Listening Center, is an initiative of Kent State’s Center for Student Involvement, which helps to foster student engagement through leadership, civic, cultural and involvement opportunities. The Nest is located on the second floor of the Kent Student Center and will debut to Kent State students as they return from spring break.
“Kent State is committed to providing our students a well-rounded student life experience, and this includes providing exceptional programming and recreational facilities outside the classroom,” said Timeka Rashid, Ph.D., assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Student Involvement at Kent State. “We are thrilled at the opportunity to offer our students another space where they can unwind and have a good time. We upgraded the area to better suit our students’ needs and give them a point of pride, so that they are reminded in a fun and eclectic way just how great of an institution they have. We are excited to have Tom and Chuck participate in this project.”
The mural designed by Batiuk and Ayers was installed March 21 by Riot Creative Imaging in Cleveland and captures the life and experiences of a student at Kent State – from campus move-in to graduation.
“As a kid, my dream was always to create a comic strip, and Kent State is where the foundations for those dreams were laid,” Batiuk said. “It was an honor to be asked to display my creations at my alma mater. It’s a storyline starting with coming to the university with your parents in freshmen year, and it leads all the way around the room to the graduation. Through the course of it, we use a lot of the characters from Crankshaft and from Funky.”
The pair started work on the project in January, and just wrapped things up a couple of weeks ago. “Chuck did the heavy lifting as far as the work on the mural,” Batiuk said. “It’s going to look good.”
Batiuk graduated from Kent State in 1969 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a certificate in education, and became a junior high school teacher. His teaching experiences inspired him to create the Funky Winkerbean comic strip that chronicles the lives of a group of students from the fictitious Westview High School. The comic strip is syndicated internationally to about 600 newspapers and has a fan base of about 50 million.
Ayers graduated from Kent State in 1971 with a degree in graphic design and worked as an artist at the Akron Beacon Journal for more than 25 years. He served as the paper’s editorial cartoonist for 13 years, and also taught cartooning for several years at Kent State and the University of Akron. Ayers began working on the Crankshaft comic strip with Batiuk in 1987.
“It is always great to hear about the accomplishments of our alumni who go on to become great advocates of Kent State,” said Lori Randorf, executive director of Alumni Relations at Kent State. “We are pleased to have Tom and Chuck back here on campus and are grateful to them for their contributions to enriching the campus experiences of our students.”
New furniture for The Nest was provided by Kent State’s Division for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs and the Center for Student Involvement.
For more information about Kent State’s Center for Student Involvement, visit www.kent.edu/csi.
For more information about Batiuk’s book, visit www.kentstateuniversitypress.com/2011/complete-funky-winkerbean-vol-1/.