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Monday, Dec 11, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

The backstory behind The Collegiate Hotel mural

<p>The Collegiate's new mural molds tradition, culture and community to represent the Auburn experience.&nbsp;</p>

The Collegiate's new mural molds tradition, culture and community to represent the Auburn experience. 

Easy Tiger, a brand-new statement piece for Auburn students to sit and relax outside The Collegiate Hotel, sparks old and new traditions for Kim Wirth. 

Kim and Bryan Wirth, the owners of The Collegiate Hotel, were looking for different aspects to represent Auburn University, as they are both alums of the school. The Collegiate Hotel offers a rooftop bar that is extremely popular among students and alums, but the Wirth’s were craving something more. 

Kim has crafted the hotel into a beautiful place known for its bright artwork but said she believed she was missing something outside on the porch area. She loved the murals around campus but wanted to spice it up and create something Auburn didn’t have. 

The Wittel Dorm, now The Collegiate Hotel, was initially owned by Betty Wittel’s parents in the 1940s that housed women for many years. Wittel was a room mom for the younger girls and played a massive role in the garden club with her daughter, Pat, who loved helping her plant flowers. 

Wirth is exceptionally close with The Wittel’s and wanted to incorporate Betty and Pat’s story into the mural. She decided on a floral mural for the porch outside the hotel to honor the Wittel family and keep their traditions alive. 

“I was involved in Greek life during my time in Auburn, and I wanted to represent panhellenic in the mural. I decided to incorporate each Panhellenic and national Panhellenic sorority flower, and there is also a hidden nod to Bryan’s fraternity as well," Wirth said. 

For many people, picking an artist may have been tricky, but for Wirth, she trusted in the Auburn family and it led her straight to Gillian Fazio. 

“I looked into mural artists who specialized in flower murals. I stumbled across Fazio and reached out to her. She said that her dad and sister had both gone to Auburn, and I knew she was the one because everything happens for a reason, especially in the Auburn family," Wirth said. 

They worked together to develop a sketch that best fit Wirth's idea. They went with the original drawing they had created, incorporating two tigers with the flower theme. 

At first, Wirth didn’t exactly see how tigers and flowers would fit together. 

“But I trusted Fazio and her process because artists can always see the bigger picture and create something that exceeds expectations," Wirth said. 

Wirth knew it would be spot on because Fazio also creates art pieces for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The tropical feel the mural gives is precisely what Kim envisioned and ties along with the theme of the Auburn Jungle. 

Kim and Bryan both want students to come and enjoy the hotel and look at something beautiful that holds a deeper meaning. 

“When you go to school, you look at how beautiful the campus is. But when you take a step back, you reflect on the deeper meaning behind Auburn," Wirth said. "We want students and alum to come and stay on the porch and truly take in everything Auburn has to offer. Even if you weren’t part of a sorority, it is still a beautiful piece of artwork that has an extra layer of meaning. We also want people to know it is still the Wittel Dorm even if it has transformed with fun touches.” 

Jolie Bishop | Culture Editor

Jolie Bishop, Culture Editor for The Auburn Plainsman is a senior in marketing with a minor in journalism. She has been with The Plainsman since summer of 2022. 

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