Painting brings Japanese Garden indoors

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bela Petheo - Painting of Japanese Garden

Bela Petheo has once again left his mark — in the form of brushstrokes — on St. Cloud State University.

Petheo, the city of St. Cloud's own world-renowned artist, created an inspiring painting of the campus' Japanese Garden for the fourth floor of Centennial Hall. During a six-month period, Petheo worked with Mary Soroko, advisor of Beta Gamma Sigma, the College of Business honor society, to find and bring to life an aspect of campus that might spark creativity in the minds of business students.

Believing that the quality of education is based in part on the contributions of alumni, Soroko wanted to make sure her students made an impact. "Students don't have the money, but they do have time, and passion, and we applied all of that in order to make a lasting impression on the Herberger College of Business and its future students."

"To be successful in business takes risktaking, creativity, and the ability to come up with new approaches to doing things. But public institutions always seem to consider activities that promote that kind of development as least important," she said.

Soroko and Beta Gamma Sigma wanted to "bring the outside in" and start turning the gears in the minds of business students.

Petheo was skeptical about painting the Japanese Garden. He remembers thinking: "In terms of creativity, this is going to be dangerous: it's going to be dull—There's so much green!"

"After looking at other photographs of the garden, I saw color in flowers, in the pond and the bright orange fish, and in the people and their colorful clothing." Petheo said. "I wanted to bring life to the painting, and that's what the colors did."

Other details of the painting make it stand out. The blurred look and lack of detail is deliberate, so as not to take away from the whole picture. The painting is a triptych, divided into three separate frames.

The painting has had an effect on students and passersby. "It brings life to the business office, which is usually not a place where art is present," Soroko said. "Students are drawn to it; they gather around it, which then initiates conversations and peer interaction. It raises the overall comfort level of the fourth floor, making it feel less 'institutional.'"

The $5,000 painting was funded by Beta Gamma Sigma, which raised $1,500. Various clubs of the College of Business Executive Council contributed the rest of the funds.

Petheo previously created an oil painting for St. Cloud State which is in the Mississippi Room of Atwood Memorial Center.

- Story by Kasey Jaskowiak | Photograph by Neil Andersen '96

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