Walking through the entrance of Langford Hall a few weeks ago, Sean O’Meara and Erik Hedrick enthusiastically told me about the Pearl Jam mural they painted 18 years ago outside their dorm room. Now, O’Meara is an orthopedic surgeon and Hedrick works in elementary education. The two were headed to a Pearl Jam concert held in the same Missoula venue as the Pearl Jam show they saw almost two decades prior.
Aside from the new biochemistry building, temporary classrooms and some recent renovations to Langford, our walk to the mural looked much like it did when they were freshmen. “We’re huge fans of the band,” Hedrick said, “and we thought it would be cool to put a mural up. I didn’t know you could just do that.” Listening to them talk, it was easy to pretend I was just their friend and we were about to see the mural they painted last week.
Whether Hedrick and O’Meara felt like it was 1994 for a few moments, or it was just me, the daydream deflated when we hit the fourth floor — the mural was gone. “It was right here,” O’Meara said dejectedly, reaching out and touching the whitewashed wall.
Last March, a friend’s son sent a photo to them confirming the mural was still there. When they painted it they were told it would be removed after five years. The mural was painted over this summer during renovations, along with two other murals on the same floor inspired by Pink Floyd and Nine Inch Nails. The original Langford renovation plan called for removing all of the murals.
“Progress laced with ramifications,” sings Eddie Vedder on PJ’s 2000 album Binaural, which seems to fit the situation.
Tammie Brown, MSU’s Residence Life Director, did not want the murals to go. She acted quickly by soliciting the opinions of students and staff to determine which murals should be kept, then personally walked through the building with the architect and construction manager.
Most of the removed murals were faded or stained. “We even considered transferring the murals to cloth to keep the history, but in the end it was too cost prohibitive,” Brown said.
Tyler Patterson and Lewis Whitsell live in Hedrick and O’Meara’s old room. They both like Pearl Jam and wish the mural was still there.
Hedrick and O’Meara saw the silver lining in the blank wall outside their door — now there is space for a new mural. They challenge the current residents of Langford to put up their own murals. “It’s a fun way to personalize your floor,” Hedrick said. “That’s why we did it; it was a reflection of the times and what everyone was into.”
If you live on campus and would like to paint a mural, contact your hall’s Resident Director to submit a design including the size and time frame of the project.