The word “alumna” may take a little getting used to for Madison Lohwasser.
It’s only been a month since she graduated from Western Carolina University with two bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and international studies. The 23-year-old also minored in German, all in just four and a half years.
But it wasn’t any of those subjects she excelled in that is gaining the Marshall native attention across campus. Instead, a favorite hobby and an additional minor in studio art has inserted her name into “colorful” conversations among faculty, staff and students.
“I think this mural showcases our beautiful campus and its surroundings in a fun way,” said Carrie Hachadurian, assistant director of student development for the Center of Career and Professional Development. “It makes the space more welcoming and puts students at ease when they come here for help.”
The 8-by-23 foot mural is an expressive adaptation of the center of campus, featuring the alumni clock tower with mountains in the background. The mural has become part of the daily working environment for students and staff who work in the department located inside Reid Gymnasium. Lohwasser was commissioned to paint the on-campus mural after she successfully finished another mural for Jackson County Green Energy Park as part of her internship.
“I love to use bright colors in all of my artwork, it makes me happy,” Lohwasser said during a telephone interview after a crew break on set for an independent film in Atlanta. “For this one, I also wanted to include some WCU colors.”
It took her about three weeks to conceptualize, draw and then paint the WCU mural with the assistance of senior Rachel Raming. She finished the mural during the winter holiday break.
“It was a nice feeling to complete the mural. I feel like it’s a piece of me that is still there on campus at WCU,” she said. “It’s just a nice way for me to leave my mark. I definitely miss WCU.”
Drawing is something Lohwasser remembers as one of her favorite pastimes. She would draw in school or after school in a room at her family’s local sawmill business, Big Pine Log and Lumber. She says her family’s business is one of the last remaining independent family-owned sawmills in Western North Carolina.
“I so appreciate my mom (Mindy McCall) and grandfather. They are deep-rooted Appalachia natives who built their homes out of the original trees around them.”
Lohwasser’s family also has long ties to WCU. Her paternal grandfather, Ray Ashe, had to leave the university to serve in World War II. Her father, Dan, attended WCU and her brother, Danny, is continuing his studies here.
Lohwasser is now spending her time as an art production designer/prop master for an independent feature film being shot on location in Atlanta.
“I hope WCU students realize they can make their mark at the university now. Students don’t have to wait until they graduate to do it,” she said. “Put your mind to it and you can do it. It is definitely a nice feeling for me to know I have literally left mine.”