The Life-Changing Power of Art

Alex Van Galder taking a photo next to a mural he painted.

June 30, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. – Growing up, Alex Van Galder was into graffiti art, and showing off his creative skills on others’ property sometimes got him in trouble.

“I was a graffiti artist. I climbed buildings. I painted trains. I ran away from helicopters,” he said. “I wasn’t doing graffiti for the art. I was doing it for the adventure.”

Alex Van Galder, Artist and VU alum

(Images provided by Alex Van Galder)

A picture of a mural of cars.

Now he uses his artistic talent to create vibrant and eye-catching scenes on walls, canvas, pegboard as a full-time career artist. He started Van Galder Murals Inc.

His forte is spray paint.

A mural painted by the Vincennes University alumni, highlighting the history of the Studebaker Company, which at one time was the world’s largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles and a leader in automobile manufacturing, was unveiled earlier this month inside the 19th-century Studebaker mansion in South Bend, Indiana. He has painted bottles for actor Dan Aykroyd’s vodka company, Crystal Head. He recently painted an Elven city inspired by Lord of the Rings on pegboard using acrylic paint.An image taken of a Star Wars mural painted by Alex Van Galder.

Van Galder battled many hardships during childhood.

Studying art and graphic design at VU was a life-changing experience that completely altered his trajectory.

He praises former VU professor Bernard Hagedorn for the impact he has had on Van Galder’s life.

He has fond memories of a once-in-a-lifetime art tour to Italy and Greece that he took with Hagedorn and other VU students about a decade ago. The group visited numerous famous historic sites, including the Sistine Chapel and Leaning Tower of Pisa.

“Vincennes changed a lot for me,” he said. “Mr. Hagedorn was one of the biggest influences I’ve ever had in my life. He is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. He is probably one of the best role models I’ve ever had in my life.

“I grew up pretty rough and if it wasn’t for those role models, I wouldn’t have seen the potential in myself.”

Alex Van Galder spray-painting a wall.

The father of two is on a mission to do the same for others.

Van Galder, who lives in Elkhart, Indiana, is the founder of a not-for-profit called Graff Bash Fundraising Inc. Van Galder and other artists have transformed the South Bend Art Wall located at S. Niles Ave and East Jefferson Blvd. in South Bend, Indiana into a place where graffiti is embraced and not spurned.

In addition to making art, they raise money for charity. Van Galder said they’ve most recently donated to a children’s home.

His philanthropy goes beyond that. He also teaches art to children in low-income communities.

“I want to do as much to show my children how you can shape the world around you with the talents that you were given,” Van Galder said.