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.
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.”
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.”
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.”