The dull, rust-stained wall underneath Founder’s Bridge will soon transform into a concrete canvas.
This semester a group of students will paint a mural there that will also serve as the first permanent, student-created, public art installation on campus.
“There is nothing on campus that displays the students’ own perspective of the college,” Mark Pottinger, P.h.D. and chair of Manhattan College’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, said. “Students wanted to have some element, some legacy on campus that speaks directly to them.”
Some of those students include members of the college’s Performing Arts and Visual Culture common interest community—one of the several new themed housing communities that Residence Life began this fall.
Senior R.J. Liberto serves as one of the resident advisors for the community and is excited for the project to begin later this month. “For the visual and performing arts community, the mural is a chance for the members to express themselves and add to the campus’s beauty,” he said.
However, the creation of a student mural on campus is a project that has long been in the works and called for by several different individuals.
According to Pottinger, the space underneath the bridge to O’Malley Library was originally designed to have some kind of mural or artwork installed after construction. Yet frequent discussions among faculty and administration over the years never came to fruition—until now.
Jean Manning, senior physics major, also had the idea for painting a mural under the bridge when she first pursued the creation of a student art club her freshman year on campus.
While the club did not actually form until this year, her idea for a mural did not go away. When Pottinger began the formal organization process for the mural last year, he reached out to Manning to see if she was still interested in being involved.
“I just had this idea, and now it turned into this huge thing. It’s cool that this one idea I had freshman year—that I never thought was actually going to happen—all of a sudden just blew up,” Manning said. “It’s definitely very exciting.”
Last semester, Manning and Pottinger met with Creative Art Works, an organization of professional teaching artists that has worked with several schools and communities to develop murals throughout New York City.
The group will be providing training and materials to the Manhattan College students working on the mural. This will ensure a professional and high quality final product, even though many of those involved may not have had prior experience with mural painting.
The selection process for those students is still underway. One of the challenges is finding a common time for a group of 15 to 20 core students to meet every week to work on the project.
According to Pottinger, more than 40 students have already expressed interest in being a part of the planning and execution process. Anyone who is interested can also fill out a survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9BXYQVT.
Once the group of students is selected by the end of February, they will begin brainstorming a subject for the work of art. The exact image is still undecided, but it will consist of some interpretation of the college’s broader mission.
“We want to have a high standard, not cartoonish or graffiti-like, an artwork that people can be proud of and one that can speak to as many people as possible,” Pottinger said.
After planning the design, painting will begin and continue until the mural is completed. As of now, it is expected to be ready for a formal reveal in time for graduation weekend.
Additionally, before painting the wall must be cleaned and properly prepared. However, the option also exists to try and incorporate the existing rust stains into the final mural design. Pottinger feels this would make the mural a stronger image of inclusivity and in many ways method of celebrating natural flaws and imperfections.
Either way, the mural will be an improvement on the existing appearance of one of the college’s key entrances into main campus. “It’s one of the first things that people see when they come up those stairs from Manhattan College Parkway,” Pottinger said. “It’s a great opportunity for people coming into campus to see a clear image, a welcoming image, of what Manhattan College is about.”
There has already been discussion of the possibility of creating future murals on the side of Draddy Gymnasium and the ground floor of Thomas Hall near the area where dumpsters are currently stored.
But first, this pioneering project must be completed successfully—a burden that Pottinger and the students involved both recognize and are eager to accept.