School of Visual Arts student creates mural on the MorningStar Solar Home

Hannah Ferenci
October 05, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The MorningStar Solar Home, a self-sustainable home designed and built by Penn State students and faculty, now features a mural created by Danielle Spewak, a senior in the Penn State School of Visual Arts.

The home was created in 2007 to compete in the Solar Decathlon, but in order for it to be classified as a “living building,” the home needed to include a form of public art.

In February 2017, Spewak responded to a flyer that invited students to submit proposals for the mural. Her proposal was accepted, and after more than a year of production, her work, “Guild Building,” will be dedicated at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11. The solar home is located on Penn State’s 9-acre Sustainability Experience Center next to Medlar Field.

The ceramic-tile mural, which is about 10 feet tall and 40 feet wide, was created by Spewak, who fired, cleaned, glazed, mapped and placed each tile. More than half of the tiles on the ceramic mosaic were handmade.

“I started with a to-scale drawing on paper of what I wanted to represent, then I planned and created the handmade tiles from clay,” Spewak said. “I was excited by the opportunity to send a message at this scale.”

The inspiration for the piece came from tying together her interests in permaculture, sustainability and ceramics. Spewak said she hopes the mural reflects the harmony of all species living together and contributes to the MorningStar Solar Home, which is a model of environmental consciousness and progress.

“This mural was a student-driven and executed project and everything on site has been created by students through the guidance of faculty members,” Spewak said. “It is truly a site of learning, experimentation and systems thinking for direct student engagement.”

The brief dedication ceremony will include words from the artist and light refreshments. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Liam Cummings at

Last Updated September 20, 2019