The Babson Globe Gets an Artistic Refresh

The Babson Globe gets an artistic renovation

Josh Falk dips a well-worn paintbrush into a small plastic tub of bright pumpkin orange paint and carefully outlines the contours of South Sudan’s border, allowing the color to form a sturdy line.

“I love looking at maps,” he says, “so this is cool for me now to be working on a giant globe of the Earth. It hits home, and I’m grateful.”

This isn’t just any globe, of course—this is the Babson World Globe, the iconic symbol of the College’s dedication to its global community. Since moving to its new home in Kerry Murphy Healey Park in March, the giant sphere has been shrouded in a wrapped scaffolding as mural artists have painstakingly hand painted every inch of the 28-foot-diameter, 25-ton piece. The Globe makes its formal debut on Friday, May 17, at 9 a.m. when the park is dedicated. It will even spin again, thanks to a one-horsepower motor. The new park and the Globe’s restoration are part of the Centennial celebration and funded by alumnus and trustee Robert Weissman ’64, H’94, P’87 ’90, and his wife, Jan P’87 ’90.

Up for the Challenge

“We’re used to wrapping images around contours, and we’ve done maps, but nothing like this,” says Dana Woulfe, co-founder (with Falk) of Studio Fresh, a Beverly, Massachusetts-based custom mural and graphics company. The globe has gone through a few iterations and was saved from demolition since College founder Roger Babson made it a showpiece at Coleman Hall’s Map and Globe Museum in the 1950s.

Planning the current restoration took a year, with the on-site painting process lasting six weeks. The Studio Fresh crew had to decide on a map design, devise patterns, scale those patterns to an enormous globe, and choose a color palette of blues, browns, and greens. A computer program helped turn a 2-D map into a low-res spherical one.

“We’re artists at the end of the day,” says Woulfe, “so we can use our eye to help fix some of the things that the computer didn’t.”

The Hand of the Artist

Devising a strategy for the painting worked to maintain a coherent look. Freelance artist Zach Johnsen did the base color blocking, and Falk did the underpainting and rendered features such as deserts and forests. Woulfe created the dimensional contours of the forests, mountain ranges, rivers, and ocean depths. The globe will be covered with a replaceable UV clearcoat to cut down on fading.

One of the most unique features of the piece is being able to see the hand of the painters in the visible brushstrokes. “We tried to do some rough blending, so a lot of the finished results were impressionist style,” says Woulfe. “We’re not going to get photo real on this. The brush strokes are more gestural and representative than they are realistic.”

Woulfe likes the fact that Babson students will be able to view their home on the Globe, whether that’s Massachusetts or Mumbai. Adds Falk, “In terms of a public art piece, this is something we’ll never forget.”

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