Crankshaft cartoonist Chuck Ayers got a once in-a-lifetime treat Wednesday.
Ayers watched as his newspaper comic strip was transformed into a massive mural lining the walls of a new student lounge at his alma mater: Kent State University.
Ayers, class of 1971, partnered with friend and colleage Tom Batiuk, author of the comic strip Funky Winkerbean and fellow Kent State alumnus, to create a mural depicting the college student experience from acceptance to graduation. The mural lines the walls of a new student lounge, called "The Nest," that will debut to students on Monday.
Timeka Rashid, director of the Center for Student Involvement at Kent State, approached Batiuk and Ayers with the idea of putting their characters in a mural to give the lounge a sense of alumni pride.
If you look closely, you can see both artists are memorialized in one section of the mural.
Ayers said the mural represents about 100 hours of work for the artists. The university will dedicate it on the 40th anniversary of the debut of Funky Winkerbean on Tuesday, March 27, from noon to 2 p.m. during the official opening of the new student lounge.
"As a kid, my dream was always to create a comic strip, and Kent State is where the foundations for those dreams were laid,” Batiuk said in prepared remarks. “It was an honor to be asked to display my creations at my alma mater."
Batiuk graduated from Kent State in 1969 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a certificate in education, and became a junior high school teacher. His teaching experiences inspired him to create the Funky Winkerbean comic strip that chronicles the lives of a group of students from the fictitious Westview High School. The comic strip is syndicated internationally to about 600 newspapers and has a fan base of about 50 million.
Ayers graduated from Kent State in 1971 with a degree in graphic design and worked as an artist at the Akron Beacon Journal for more than 25 years. He served as the paper’s editorial cartoonist for 13 years, and also taught cartooning for several years at Kent State and the University of Akron. Ayers began working on the Crankshaft comic strip with Batiuk in 1987.