University of Maryland and Bowie State University students collaborated on the development of a unity mural this fall, which was installed at the Maryland House of Delegates’ building in Annapolis on February 12. At the mural installation, UMD and BSU faculty and students presented the collaborative art project, which focuses on themes of justice and unity, to UMD President Wallace Loh and BSU President Aminta H. Breaux.
“We designed the unity mural in order to engage students in discussions about social justice, including hate-crimes and discrimination, and how to prevent these problems from proliferating in our society and schools,” said Dr. Walker. “We intentionally collaborated with students at BSU, an HBCU, to actively encourage our students to communicate and collaborate with a group of students outside of their community.”
The community-based mural was developed this fall as part of The Clarice’s NextNow Festival. Designed via Skype sessions by UMD art education students, led by COE Clinical Assistant Professor Margaret Walker, and BSU art students, led by Art Professor Gina Lewis, the two groups met at The Clarice this fall to transfer the design to canvas. The mural was painted by more than 250 members of the community over two days in September at the NextNow Festival, a process documented by BSU photojournalism students in a class led by BSU Assistant Professor Jennifer White-Johnson.
The UMD students who helped develop the mural were in Dr. Walker’s Foundations of Art Education course, which focuses on community-based art education as a means of connecting children and schools with the local community through art making designed to bridge divides and break down barriers of misunderstanding.
“The mural project was a perfect opportunity to experience art as a way to bridge divides in the community,” said Dr. Walker.
She added that while the student artists were initially wedded to their particular vision for the mural, they were quite amazed and pleased by the layers, textures and ideas that emerged through the community members’ participation in painting the mural.
“When working with community, it is important to recognize that community members bring their own experiences and perspectives and ideas to an artwork,” Dr. Walker said. “I find this is the most difficult, but most important part about working with community – to trust that you all have something to bring to the “conversation,” be open, and allow a natural flow of ideas.”
The mural is created on four panels, which now hang at the Maryland House of Delegates in Annapolis until the end of the legislative session. The unity mural will then travel to BSU and UMD to be displayed in whole temporarily, after which it will be divided in half, with each campus placing their half of the mural on permanent display.
Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle, UMD