June 8, 2023

Art Class Transforms Melchers Hall & Ceramics Kiln

The plants hanging from the ceramics kiln outside Melchers Hall came from UMW’s Dahlgren campus

The ceramics kiln behind the fine arts complex of Melchers, Pollard and duPont halls on the Fredericksburg campus started showing its age. The wood had rotted in some places and the paint began chipping away from years of outdoor exposure.

Carole Garmon, professor of art at the University of Mary Washington, saw potential.

She and the 12 students in her installation art class this summer decided to give the kiln a makeover.  They brushed it with recycled paint, repaired the decaying wood and hung plants and flowers from the outside of the structure.

Even the plants were “recycled.”  When Director of Landscape and Grounds Joni Wilson heard about Garmon’s project, she harvested plants from the Dahlgren campus’ vegetative roof and delivered them to the class.

And that’s just for starters.

With the help of her student artists, Garmon plans to turn the art complex into an oasis for students, faculty and staff.

She calls it an exercise in “making art from nothing.”

The students in Carole Garmon’s installation art class painted the Melchers Hall terrace to create a “space that promotes creative thinking”

The class, held during the first eight-week summer session, also transformed the Melchers Hall second-floor terrace into a more colorful space.

The students, including junior studio art major Robert Luther, painted the area in bright shades of pink, blue and green geometric shapes to play off the shadows.

Luther, who recently transferred to UMW from Germanna Community College, enjoyed his first class at Mary Washington so much he decided to stay on after the summer session ended to continue the work, spending six hours a day repainting the furniture and floor of the Melchers Hall terrace.

“This project helps us form a community in our department,” he said. “It reinforces our togetherness.”

While refurbishing the old, the artists are intent on preserving the past.

Artwork from former students–a mural on one of the terrace columns, miniature clay figurines perched on a railing and signatures of previous students–are incorporated in the new design. The garden and the terrace show how collaboration between departments and thinking out side of the box can work.

“We try to create spaces that promote creative thinking,” Garmon said. “This has been a really good lesson in going low-tech and making something cool happen.”

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.


  1. Betty Bradshaw says

    Good job Carole and very nice article.