Skip to Main Content

Public Art on South Campus: University of Massachusetts Lowell

Dr. Nina M. Coppens, 2019

coppens mural O'Learly library installation view with student sitting at a table in the foreground
Photos by Michael Page

O'Leary Mezzanine Dr. Nina M. Coppens, Adel DiPersio, Julie Howard, 2019

The mezzanine of O’Leary Library contains two murals; both of them painted by students of the university.

The mural of Nina Coppens in the main reading room commemorates the life and contributions of one of the university’s long-standing faculty and administrators. Nina Coppens came to the University of Lowell in the 1980s first as a faculty member in the nursing program, and then as a member of the Psychology Department; and in 2009
 she became dean of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The mural depicts Dr. Coppens in the foreground of four landscapes she loved: the farms of her youth in Illinois, the fall foliage and winter snows of the White Mountains, and the buildings of South Campus (O’Leary Library and Durgin Hall are pictured at lower right). The image of Coppens herself, based upon the study of photographs and conversations with surviving family members, captures the warmth and energy that made her such a vital part of the university community. 

detail of mural right side with student at a table in the foreground. mural shows 4 different landscapes, plowed field, autumn forest, snowy mountains, modern campus buildings

The students tasked with making the mural divided up the duties according to their strengths—Yahira Torres (’19) organized the project; Adel DiPersio (’19) made the canvases and painted the background, and Julie Howard (’17) painted the figure of Coppens. Faces are hard to do, especially at the scale depicted here; Howard began by painting large shapes of color which she slowly built up and defined through layers and layers of loose, painterly strokes. Be sure to stand back from the mural to see how all the brushstrokes come together to convey Dr. Coppens’ warmth. The mural was painted in Mahoney Hall—the panels are so large that Julie and Adel could paint side by side—and then installed in O’Leary for the dedication in March of 2020.

detail of coppens mural showing left side detail with four layers of different landscapes and left should pf portrait subject

Nina Coppens Watches Over O'Leary Now