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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Students respond to messages of hate with images of acceptance

After a slew of hate messages rocked UC Davis earlier this year, students are responding with artistic expressions of an inclusive and safe campus.

As a Chicano/Latino intern at the Cross Cultural Center (CCC), Johnathen Duran was upset by the hate messages and said he saw an opportunity to respond to them while walking by the MU one day.

“I saw that there were these temporary white walls put up near where the construction was taking place,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to take over one of these walls and create a positive image that would be a reaction to all of the hate that was being spread.”

After getting approval from the campus architect, Duran, an experienced graffiti artist, contacted aerosol paint company Montana Spain who donated 100 spray cans for the project.

Duran then sought help from fellow students in creating a sketch for the mural.

“It was really important to get other students involved in coming up with a sketch because the mural is supposed to reflect a diverse perspective of our campus,” he said. “We want to give an honest portrayal of the campus climate, but with a focus on the positive by reflecting the history of social justice at UC Davis.”

Senior animal science major Alex Vercelli learned about the mural from Duran and said he was eager to be a part of the project.

“Johnathen and I had done some [spray] painting together in the past. I hadn’t painted in awhile but when he told me about his vision for the mural, I really wanted to help out,” Vercelli said. “Aerosol art often has a negative connotation and I was excited to turn it into a positive expression of our community,”

Construction for the mural will begin on May 24 at the conclusion of Culture Days. Duran said he hopes to finish the mural by the end of next week.

Though the wall being used for the mural is temporary and will be taken down once the MU construction is finished, Duran said it would not be the end of the mural’s presence on campus.

“After the wall is removed, the campus is going to use it at the construction site for the new Student Community Center,” he said. “The idea is to keep it moving around campus.”

Duran also said he hopes to expand the project into a campuswide venture.

“Our university really doesn’t have a lot of public artwork,” he said. “We need more culturally sensitive and diverse images on campus. It would be cool if we could turn this into a campuswide art project.”

As the campus climate intern at the CCC, Nicole Storrow works to plan programs based on current events and climates. She also saw a need for messages of anti-hate and became inspired when discussing an article by activist Lisa Dugan in her Queer Studies class.

“We were discussing a concept called “imagine otherwise,” which was about imagining spaces that are more inclusive and different from ones that we exist in,” she said. “My class discussed doing a similar project at the March 4 protest but I became inspired and ended up changing it a bit.”

Instead, Storrow came up with the concept for a Campus Climate Art Project, also entitled “Imagine Otherwise.”

“The idea is to invite students to submit their ideas of what an inclusive and safe campus looks like by writing or drawing on 5-by-8 notecards,” she said. “The possibilities are endless; students can do any visual representation of their ideas as long as it fits on the notecard.”

Interested students can pick up and submit their notecards at various locations around campus including the CCC and MU info booth by Friday at 5 p.m. Storrow will then display the notecards in the MU Art Lounge next week, starting May 24.

Students who choose not to create their own notecard can also e-mail responses to Storrow at nastorrow@ucdavis.edu if they want their ideas displayed.

“This is a chance for students to anonymously talk about what a safe campus looks like so that we can hopefully work towards creating that,” she said.

ERICA LEE can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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