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Audrey Ushenko’s Public Painting Preserves IPFW Culture


Photo credit: John Nicklin

Written by: Mikaela ConleyApril 29, 2015

A woman stands in front of the canvas stationed on the first floor of Walb Student Union, slowly adding a bit more color to the faces of the individuals that now call this canvas home. The faces of strangers intermixed with Chancellor Vicky Carwein and some of the most influential individuals in IPFW history such as Coach Arnie Ball grab the attention of passerbys. And of course, as her brush glides across the canvas, Professor Audrey Ushenko stops to talk to each one.

“I am doing this project for the 50th anniversary,” Ushenko says,  “the history of IPFW as told by me.”

Working with the university, Ushenko chose the most iconic events and achievements of faculty, administration and students that should be recorded, and decided to portray them through a procession, always moving forward.

“The procession will start at Kettler Hall and will wind its way into the present and into the future,” Ushenko said. “it is really a transmission of culture from one generation to another.”


But because a procession would typically take a longer painting than her 7’ tall and 5’ wide canvas, Ushenko has had to be creative and refers to an old trick of having something in the foreground.

“The sky bridge seems important for that. It is a place where students can rest, study, meet and congregate. It also unites three important centers of the university: The library, which is the heart of academia, the student union, which is the heart of student life, and then the sports center.”

Beginning her IPFW career in 1989, Ushenko started out as the campus’ art historian and gradually drifted into the studio department, where she now teaches. But, she is not just known around IPFW. As an Indiana University graduate with a doctorate in Art History from Northwestern University, Ushenko is a well known narrative painter.

“I  am very interested in individuality. When I look into someone’s eyes and I see the entire universe is behind them, it is just an authentic miracle,” Ushenko said.

But because her style was not popular in the Midwest, she headed to New York City, and she is now with the Denise Bibro Gallery.

Ushenko’s colleague, John Hrehov, Chair of the IPFW Fine Arts Department, is also part of Bibro’s gallery and practices the same style of realist painting.

Hrehov said, “She is a member of the National academy of design, which is quite an honor. She is a very well respected painter, here and in New York city.”

Ushenko’s painting will be unveiled at the 50th Celebration Blue- Tie Gala, “the final celebration to mark IPFW’s 50 years as a leader in higher education in northeast Indiana.” The gala will be on Saturday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation. Tickets for individuals are $100 each.

After it’s unveiling, Ushenko’s painting will be displayed behind glass in IPFW’s sky bridge.