UW News

December 5, 2002

Painter adds variety, color to institutional walls

Roberto Arambula likes color. “I believe when people have beautiful colors around them,” he says, “it brightens their day.”

As a member of the UW’s paint crew, however, Arambula most often finds himself covering walls with a single, often neutral color. But not always.

Check out the basement of Meany Hall, for example. There, the walls have been covered with southwestern colors and a modest, geometric design, all executed by Arambula.

“We were in line to have the walls painted and I was given some paint chips to look at,” explained building manager Rita Calabro. “I saw Roberto working on something else in the building and I asked his opinion. He suggested three southwestern colors and showed me some pictures of what he’d done in another building.”

Calabro liked the colors, and when Arambula asked if he could also paint some geometric shapes, she asked her staff what they thought. “They said sure, after all, it is a performing arts building and we should have something intriguing and out of the ordinary.” Arambula got the go-ahead from his supervisor and did the work.

Pam Vokolek, a harp teacher in the School of Music, has her studio in the newly painted space and is very impressed with the change. “It’s bright, cheerful and clean,” she says, “a big improvement over the gray and dark purple we had before. It’s a more attractive space for me to bring aspiring harp students to.”

Equally impressed is Jill McKinstry, head of Odegaard Undergraduate Library, with the job Arambula did on the women’s restroom near By George. The space is also done in southwestern colors, and also includes a subtle design.

“We’ve had a graffiti problem in the By George restrooms for a long time, to the point that the painters were having to come almost once a week,” McKinstry says. “Roberto suggested that maybe if there were something artistic on the walls that people would respect it and not cover it with graffiti.”

McKinstry agreed with Arambula’s argument and is pleased with the result. Arambula used a similar argument with the School of Art, where he’s done the boldest piece of work yet — also in a restroom.

Art school administrator Kris Jones met Arambula when he and other painters did a rush job to help prepare for a reception at the school. “He showed me photos of some of his other work and suggested he do something special for a restroom where we had a graffiti problem,” Jones said.

The restroom in question is a disabled person’s restroom on the first floor of the Art Building. On a column in the room Arambula has done a complex geometric design in brighter colors than he’s used elsewhere. But this is the art school, after all, and Jones says he and others in the building like Arambula’s handiwork.

Of course, Arambula can’t spend all his time doing this more artistic painting, nor can University offices expect to get “special orders” any time they want them. Arambula’s supervisor, David Fields, is no Grinch, but he has to pay attention to “our mission, which is maintenance painting.” Fields says special requests have to be weighed against other factors, such as how busy the paint crew is and how much the special work would cost. But he acknowledges, “Roberto does a nice job. He makes clients happy.”

As for Arambula, he’ll go on adding color whenever he gets a chance. “I like my job to be about more than putting an even coat of paint on the walls,” he says. “I like to bring some joy into peoples’ lives.”