Johnson Room undergoes first renovation in two decades

Photo by Reid Bruner

Some 2,120 square feet, 30 colors, seven iconic Butler University structures, a turtle named Heather Locklear and an “I SPY”-esque grasshopper now adorn the walls of Robertson Hall’s recently renovated Johnson Room.

Chris Blice and Jon Edwards of Blice Edwards Decorative Arts were brought in by Rowland Design to paint the massive mural encompassing the Johnson Room’s walls.

Craig Hardee, general construction maintenance manager, said that in addition to the painting, the room got new carpet, lighting, floor outlets, furniture and storage space. Crews are still working on replacing the chandeliers and installing new drapes, countertops and an acoustic ceiling.

Hardee said they plan on having the room completed by December, although it’s already being used for conferences and meetings.

A new casement for the rear door also was installed to balance out the room. Angled walls in the corners were incorporated to house projection screens.

The Johnson Room had not been renovated since 1990 and previously had a traditional, formal design. However, the room lacked modern touches.

“There was no technology in the room at all, and that’s pretty limiting in what could be presented or talked about,” Hardee said. “That was a driving factor. It’s not a lot of construction, but it’s enough to make a drastic change.”

The university has a $395,000 renovation budget, Vice President for Finance Bruce Arick said.

”The funding source was 2010-11 operating surplus,” he said in an email to The Collegian. “We have historically allocated significant portions of fiscal year operating surpluses toward capital investments on campus.”

In the mural that covers all four walls, Blice and Edwards depicted Jordan Hall, Robertson Hall, Atherton Union, Holcomb Observatory, the statue of Persephone from Holcomb Gardens and the under-construction Howard L. Schrott Center, which they had to paint solely from blueprints and projections.

After completing Persephone, Blice and Edwards were asked to come in and take the depiction of the statue “from a Pamela Anderson to a Jennifer Aniston,” Blice said.

The mural contains quite a few personal touches by the artists as well. Edwards added a mother with her two sons at the top of the steps leading up to Carillon Bell Tower.

He said that his mother, a Butler alumna and member of Delta Delta Delta, used to bring him and his brother, Bill, to the bell tower and let them run up and down the steps.

Edwards and Blice also included a cameo appearance of Heather Locklear, their pet turtle named after the actress.

Edwards said that while working for a catering company he catered an event at which Locklear was a special guest. Later, Edwards and Blice got a pet turtle and named it after the actress, but once it grew to be too big, they released it into Holcomb Pond, where it is believed to still reside.

And, just for fun, Edwards included a small grasshopper in an undisclosed location in the grass of the mural for spectators to find.

Blice and Edwards incorporated numerous other aspects of campus into the mural, including taking three of the phrases found above the entrances to Jordan Hall and painting them above the doors of the room, as well as adding tromp l’eoil—something painted to look 3-D—brackets from the hallways and the top of Jordan Hall.


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