Artist to paint mural at Syracuse University to teach about diversity and multiculturalism while engaging University community members in the artistic process
Artist to paint mural at Syracuse University to teach about diversity and multiculturalism while engaging University community members in the artistic processApril 18, 2002Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
A visit by a local artist to Lauren McCabe’s sociology class has evolved into a project that will involve the entire Syracuse University community, and teach lessons about diversity and multiculturalism in the process.
“The Mural Project” is a two-week intensive project that begins April 18 with a blank canvas and conclude May 2 with a completed six by 16 foot mural that depicts the ways in which people of many different races, religions and cultures come together to form the Syracuse University community. The Goldstein Activities Board and the Department of Sociology, Hendricks Chapel, Student Centers and Programming Services and the Office of Residence Life have commissioned Syracuse-based AE Originals, owned by artist Amy Bartell and her business associate, Michelle Brisson, to paint the mural. Bartell will invite SU students, faculty and staff to help her paint the mural in two locations; the Goldstein Student Center on South Campus from April 18 to 24 and the Schine Student Center from April 25 to May 2. The project is supported by a Chancellor’s Feinstone Grant for Multicultural Initiatives and a Division of Student Affairs Grant for Diverse Programming.
The mural idea developed after McCabe, a senior in The College of Arts and Sciences, heard a presentation by Bartell in a class she took last spring. Bartell had been invited to speak on art and issues relating to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. McCabe met Bartell after class and spoke to her about her work. As a member of the Goldstein Activities Board, and a student employee in the Office of Student Centers and Programming Services, McCabe had been looking for a project that would bring the South Campus community together and spotlight the role of the student center in the campus community. She decided that a mural might be a good way to do that.
“I thought this would be a great way to get the SU community to really think about what they value and how they wanted to express that,” says McCabe. “This is a really unique and exciting opportunity for people to come together to add something to our campus that will be here long after we leave.”
McCabe brought her idea to Nate Emmons, her supervisor in the Office of Student Centers and Programming Services and advisor to the Goldstein Activities Board. “I thought it was a great idea, but I knew it would be challenging,” he says.
Initial discussions took place during that spring semester. When Emmons and McCabe renewed the discussion in the fall semester of 2001, they decided to change the scope of the project to encompass the entire campus community. In addition to the Feinstone and Division of Student Affairs grants, several University departments and organizations, including Hendricks Chapel, the Committee on Women and Art and the LGBT Resource Center, are lending their support to the project.
McCabe and Emmons sought input from members of the University community on the design of the mural, as they invited more than 30 student organizations and academic departments to participate in a brainstorming session to determine images for the mural. Suggestions were also solicited from students via e-mail.
“Sitting down with different people with virtually no limits on what this mural will look like was the most interesting part of the project,” McCabe says. “I think we have come up with a design that includes many different elements of campus life as it is and sometimes how people forget it can be.”
“We have been actively involved with getting the campus community on board with the project, and have had success with getting a cross-section of academic and administrative departments as well as students involved with the design of the mural,” Emmons says. “I think the end result will be something everyone will enjoy.”
According to Brisson, the mural will consist of four panels–entitled physical, community, spirituality and education–that will flow together to give the illusion of the center of campus. The background of each panel will include a rolling landscape that will connect it to the other panels, but each panel will be strong enough to stand on its own. Each panel contains hands of different flesh tones that, along with the landscape, will tie the images together.
The individual panels will contain carefully selected images, which will include:
? Physical–An evening sky and the Carrier Dome will be the prominent background images. The panel will also include a dancer, hands at play, a ball, a soccer or lacrosse net, images of disabilities, the image of a band member and an image of Onondaga Lake.
? Community–This is the only panel that will not have an image of the University in the background. There will be images of students of various colors embracing in friendship; a residence hall; a symbol of Marshall Street; a Centro bus; drama masks to represent the larger community involvement with the University through theater; and arms holding a larger world. Diversity, leadership, community service and advocacy will be represented on the T-shirts that the figures in the panel are wearing.
? Spirituality– Hendricks Chapel, the University’s spiritual home, is the focus of this panel. Various images of spirituality, from the Native American turtle, the Star of David and the Christian cross, are portrayed, as well as images Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicken, Islam and Confucianism. A symbol of peace will also be included.
? Education–The Hall of Languages is in the background on this panel. The SU logo will be in the center of the panel, surrounded by 13 stars representing the University’s schools and colleges. There are also two hands reaching for knowledge and an open book to symbolize the roots of the University.
Students, faculty and staff are invited to paint with Bartell from 6 to 9 p.m. on the following dates: April 18, 19, and 22-24 (at the Goldstein Student Center) and from 1 to 4 p.m. on April 25, 26, and April 29 to May 2 (at the Schine Student Center). Sign-up sheets will be available at the mural sites.
“The goal is for the students, staff and faculty to really take ownership in this project,” Bartell says.
Once completed, the mural will be installed in the atrium of the Goldstein Student Center, and may be moved to the Schine Student Center during various weeks in the year, such as Commencement and Parents Weekend, Emmons says.
“The mural can have a huge impact on the SU community. I think all of us will find some representation in the mural whether it be a symbol or an actual part of the mural someone help paint. Hopefully, the mural will invite dialogue and reflection among the members of the University community,” Emmons says.
Bartell is well known in the University community. She was awarded the Daniel and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Award from the School of Social Work in the College of Human Services and Health Professions last fall, and was the keynote speaker at this year’s Women’s Leadership Conference.
She will also give a lecture on “Art and Activism” at 4 p.m. April 23 in the University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center, located at 750 Ostrom Ave. Bartell will deliver a second lecture, “The Intersection of History and Art: The Holocaust Museum and Beyond” at 4:30 p.m. April 29 in Room 228B of the Schine Student Center.
Through her artwork, Bartell addresses social justice issues concerning women, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, people with HIV/AIDS and many other oppressed and disenfranchised groups. Her posters and other art work are included at the United States Holocaust Museum, the United States Museum of Women in the Arts, the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance and the Women’s Hall of Fame. In addition, Bartell has created murals that speak to her vision of social justice at college campuses including the University of Connecticut, California State University at Long Beach and the University of New Hampshire.