Pass through the Point Lookout Road crosswalk onto the historic side of campus and you are in for a surprise. A new structure has been erected between Alumni House and the former Anne Arundel Hall. Standing approximately eight-feet high and 100-feet wide is the “We Are St. Mary’s” mural, in an array of colors.
Inspired by community art programs such as the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia and UrbanPromise in Camden, New Jersey, and further explored by classroom discussions, the mural is a visual representation of the college community.
“Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program has established partnerships with prisons, public schools, artists, and community members to create over 3,800 murals in the city,” said Associate Professor Carrie Patterson, whose “Art for Educators and Community Activist” class (ARTH 369) organized the “We Are St. Mary’s” mural project. “My class took a field trip to witness the program firsthand. When we returned,” she said, “we started having a conversation about what is St. Mary’s and what do we want to say.”
Over the course of a week the mural’s white backdrop, built from plywood by the Office of Planning and Facilities, was transformed into a canvas of answers to those questions. Outlines of images from the college archive adorn the wall as well as visuals of dots, which Patterson says represent thought bubbles.
Throughout the week, the art class welcomed students, faculty and staff for open-paint days. Using black, white, green, purple, orange and teal for the color palette, volunteers stopped by to add their own visual expressions of St. Mary’s. When asked why he chose to volunteer, senior Samuel Uwahemo Jr., a public policy major, said, “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Patterson says that community art provides a vehicle for understanding one another and our surroundings. “Through visual imagery people can express how they experience the world. Mural projects can create a dialogue for people to engage in critical thinking and thus interact with history and culture.”
Patterson’s Art for Educators and Community Activist class is also bringing art to the broader community. The class holds art workshops for the local public library, public schools, and non-profit organizations. Additional classes that focus on community arts will be offered in summer and fall 2014.
The “We Are St. Mary’s” mural will remain up until spring/summer of 2015. Patterson says that plans for commemoration will be considered.
See pictures of the art class and volunteers in action.