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Artist John Pugh (BA, Art, ’83 ) installs the “Academe” mural on the east side of the future arts and humanities building. (Photo by Ernesto Rivera)

In January 2014, the campus’ beloved John Pugh mural, Academe, had to be demolished to make way for construction of the new Arts and Humanities Building. The mural had become recognized by community members as an iconic part of the campus and Downtown Chico, so the University saved a special spot in the new Arts and Humanities building to recreate it.

On Monday, 34 years since the mural first went up, Pugh returned to the Chico State campus to reinstall Academe.

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Pugh (BA, Art, ’83 ) reinstalled the mural in pieces. (Photo by Ernesto Rivera)

Pugh, who graduated from Chico State in 1983 in fine art, painted the mural on-location as a student during a five-month process in 1981. The mural launched Pugh’s signature style of architectural illusion.

“This was the first springboard,” he said. “I got a lot of international attention which was harder to do back then.”

_MG_8777.jpg The mural by John Pugh on the corner of First Street and Salem comes down as part of the final phases to tear down Taylor Hall to make way for a new arts and humanities building.

The mural by John Pugh on the corner of First and Salem streets comes down in January 2014 as part of the final phases to tear down Taylor Hall to make way for the new Arts and Humanities Building. (Photo by Ernesto Rivera)

Before it came down, the mural had become a historical landmark over the past 31 years, overlooking the intersection of Salem and First Streets. It was so special, the University carved out parts of it before it was demolished as mementos for community members.

“I owe this mural,” he said. “When I’m painting up there, once in awhile, all of a sudden it’s like traveling back in time. Not even a memory. I feel like I’m back to being 20 years old and painting on this wall.”

Pugh painting the mural in 1981.

Pugh painting the mural in 1981. (Photo courtesy of John Pugh)

Coming back to campus, Pugh feels a surreal reconnection to the school he once called home.

“It was the height of my learning here at Chico State and going off into my career,” he said. “Coming back, it’s like a class reunion with the campus.”