Aspire Student Spotlight: Samantha Davis-Stackowicz

samantha davisDavis-Stackowicz alongside the newly-painted pedestrian bridge in South Bend. She was volunteer coordinator & lead painter for the project.

By Sarah Duis

The pedestrian bridge that runs across State Road 933 on South Bend’s North side got a colorful facelift this summer, and IU South Bend student Samantha Davis-Stackowicz was a driving force behind it.

Davis-Stackowicz's husband, local artist Christopher Stackowicz, was commissioned by Memorial Hospital in the spring of 2013 to transform the drab bridge into a vibrant landmark. As he got to work designing a mural, Davis-Stackowicz stepped into the role of volunteer coordinator and began recruiting people from across Michiana to lend a hand for The 933 Bridge Project.

She said the job involved “answering lots of emails, doing interviews for the news and the newspaper, being the go-to person out at the site, and knowing everything that needs to be done and where everything needs to go—sort of like site manager.”

And Davis-Stackowicz's efforts paid off. Over the course of the summer, more than 960 unique volunteers helped out with the project. While some were independent local residents, several organizations came out in full force, including the Adams High School Honor Society, the IUSB Queer-Straight Alliance, the South Bend Center for the Homeless, Made in Michiana, and the South Bend Community Re-Entry program—to name just a few.

Davis-Stackowicz also served as lead painter throughout the summer. Though the content of the mural was determined before painting began, she played a crucial role in teaching volunteers the correct painting techniques.

The mural imagery features architecture from around South Bend, including the State Theater, the Morris Performing Arts Center, the St. Joseph River and the South Bend Civic Theatre. The bridge, which runs across U.S. 31 between Angela Avenue and Northshore Boulevard, is a major entry point into South Bend.

“I think this area is really unique and I think that there is a lot of need in South Bend to take a personal vested interest in redefining the city,” says Davis-Stackowicz, a double-major in psychology and fine art.

She says her passion for the project was rooted in her love of South Bend.

“This project was a bit of a surprise, but before that I had already been pretty involved in South Bend and had a heart to want to be a part of the renaissance that’s going on here,” she says. “The idea of a local renaissance seems to be really picking up and garnering a lot of attention.”

Davis-Stackowicz adds that her experiences as an art student at IU South Bend have “absolutely” helped her develop the skills she needed to take on a project of this size. She and Stackowicz plan to continue “beautifying” areas in South Bend through their non-profit business called CStack Studios LLC.

“I want to see people drive downtown and move downtown, and I just want to see awesome things happening, so the more colorful we can make it the better,” Davis-Stackowicz says.