by Gabriella DePinho & August Kissel
Staff Writer & Editor
Ever since May 2015, “Blossom”, the student painted and designed mural under Founder’s Bridge has resided and became a staple of the Manhattan College community. Blossom had a long creation starting back when it was idea made up by Jean Manning, a Manhattan College alumni, was just a freshman.
“I went to Dr. Savoy with the idea of starting my own club, maybe we could even paint murals. I was thinking specifically under the bridge, it used to be really dark and dreary down here,” said Manning.
The project fell to the wayside for three years until Mark Pottinger, Ph.D., of the Visual and Performing Arts department picked up the idea and contacted Manning. The two spent the next few months acquiring their team.
“We started off by going to Kelly Commons and setting up a table and giving away Starbucks lattes. Then students were like ‘What free coffee?’ and signed up. Sometimes students need a little motivation to get involved and sign up,” said Pottinger
Other students found out about the project through word of mouth. Junior international studies major Leah Reiner was recruited by Pottinger to get involved.
“[Dr. Pottinger] told me of an opportunity to work on an art piece on campus and I just took it,” said Reiner.
The group was made up of students from four schools on campus. The original team included one international studies major, two communication majors, one computer science major, one philosophy major, one English major, one in mechanical and one in electrical engineering, one physics major, one psychology major, one secondary education, and one biology major.
“It was just one of those times when good ideas attract good people. It is not defined by one group, we were not made up of one people, the group that we had reflects that,” said Pottinger
Each of the members of the group had a different idea as to how they wanted the mural to look. The group ran surveys and talked to a wide variety of MC community members to see what they wanted represented in the mural.
If you look at Blossom from left to right, it serves as a compass. On the left is the one train, painted closest to the stairwell that leads from the street into the campus. In the center, there is the five pointed star which represents the Lasallian values embedded into the school. By the staircase into the quad is a representation of Smith Chapel, which identifies where those who walk by are going in the present and in the future, where they will be walking away from when the students finish their time as a Jasper.
“I believe that this is what really sold people was that this was student defined and, we were not going to pay professional muralists to come and create a mural and leave, this was done by students who were going through the process of being a Jasper and what that means to them. The mural sort of reflects that,” said Pottinger.
Manning has a special relationship with Blossom. “Now that I graduated, I am not even doing physics at all. I stayed in New York to pursue art (…) This project changed my life in that way,” said Manning. “I am really glad that we were able to change campus because we needed the change.”
While many members of the original team have graduated, Pottinger called the remaining team together to clean and maintain the mural. When Dr. Pottinger first arrived back to campus this past July, he noticed rust stains and graffiti.
The team assembled on Friday, Sept. 8, and cleaned the mural with soap, water, and chemicals that would take off the rust while leaving the paint intact. After they would take paint and do little touch-ups to markings that do not wash off.
From the original 12 members, six showed up for the retouching (two of them being alumni). As students walked past seeing the efforts being made, brand new sets of eyes were able to glance at the mural, possibly for the first time.
Pottinger is planning on assembling the team again in the spring semester after the winter weather hits the mural. He also has plans of reaching out to the new art club, Sanctus Artem, and other fine arts majors for help so they too can add their legacy onto the mural keep-up.
“It’s nice to have something that is kind of in the background of the campus, and that will be here beyond our stay,” said Reiner.