Katie Merz’s Live the Questions documents the memories and stories of Class of 2020 alumni—who departed campus unexpectedly and without opportunity for closure or commemoration—and current students—in a frieze of images that wind around the Facilities Building smokestack from base to top. Merz’s dynamic mural features iconography derived from a research phase, during which Class of 2020 alumni and current students shared stories, questions, histories, and memories, and reflect on the critical events of 2020.

The artist describes her drawing process as “a spur of the moment…kinetic ordering” or graphic translation of images, words, and phrases resulting from her research. She achieves her graphic approach by hand drawing in enduring oil stick against a flat background. Merz’s Live the Questions interweaves memories, experiences, and aspirations of the Ursinus community into an indelible visual palimpsest commemorating 2020’s unique circumstances. This work is a permanent installation on the Ursinus campus.

Katie Merz’s Live the Questions embraces Ursinus College’s and the Berman Museum of Art’s missions to prepare students to live creatively and productively, and to become independent, responsible, and thoughtful individuals, who think critically in an interdependent world. Merz’s work is inquiry-based, inspiring viewers to toward curiosity and exploration, a mandate of the arts in liberal education. The mural’s site and its visibility across campus and across Collegeville provide an accessible, equitable, welcoming space that challenges our communities to delve into the broader world of ideas.

As work progressed through the month of September 2020, Ursinus students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as Collegeville residents and social media followers galvanized around Merz’s Live the Questions. The spectacle of Merz and her assistant working 100 feet above campus and their daily progress on the mural stimulated wonder and generated good will at a time when it was sorely needed. From a curricular perspective, Live the Questions inspires assignments in courses from studio art to computer science. The artist met daily with classes and individual students, faculty, and staff as part of her ongoing research for the project. She was also featured as part of the annual Ursinus Fringe Fest in October.