Work on the designing of a new mural for the Student Community Center (SCC) has been halted after facing criticism from SCC stakeholders and community members.
The mural, which was to be painted on the North Wall of the SCC, was a quarter-long project of the Winter quarter Chicano/a Studies 171: Mural Workshop class.
The nine-student class, lead by Assistant Professor Maceo Montoya, said they sought to “create a mural that would enable people to reflect and think critically about the world we live in,” on a blog documenting their design process.
The three-paneled mural design would have included imagery that is symbolic of solidarity between various cultural minority groups on campus. It included faces that blended into one another, women’s breadth dancers that would represent cultural diversity and confidence, and peacock feathers that symbolized all-seeing knowledge and openness in Ancient Greece and Buddhism, respectively. Another panel included an agricultural field inspired by Yolo County. Student columns represented the notion that the SCC is comprised of students. The next panel presents a conveyer belt of various student ID cards, that according to the class’ blog “warns of a cold impersonal institution creating manufactured students. However, students struggle free, emerging from the ID cards to become active participants in their education.”
The painting of the mural required a general consensus from SCC stakeholders. The class held interviews with students and staff of the SCC and held public comment sessions, where members of the public could voice any criticisms they had on the design.
Student Director for Southeast Asians Furthering Education (SAFE) at the Student Recruitment and Retention Center (SRRC) Teresa Tran said she did not feel the Southeast Asian community was adequately represented in the drafts presented during the comment session.
“The only representation we saw was the abbreviation ‘S.E.A’ for ‘Southeast Asian,’ but who would know what S.E.A. stands for?” she said.
According to Tran, one of the wall panels was agreed upon almost entirely, with the exception of slight word changes, such as changing “LGBT” to “LGBTQIAA” and “Women Liberation” to “Gender Equity.”
“I do not want to say that I hated the mural because it was beautiful, but to see myself and my community walk by it every day and to see that we were not represented on the building that we come to work to every day, that we see as our second home, is something we did not want,” Tran said.
The class explained that most of the featured designs were generalized figures and faces that did not belong to specific ethnic or racial groups.
According to the mural workshop class, negative comments toward the mural were unexpected. The class stated on the process blog that including all cultures that represent all students is “not possible logistically and artistically.”
Staff at the Women’s Resource and Research Center (WRRC) outreach office requested that full bodies of the students be painted as well as changing the agriculture images, as they bore a “feminized connotation in relation to nature.”
In an e-mail from SCC administration to the workshop professor, they outlined the changes they wanted to see in the mural.
“Going forward will require that those giving and those [receiving] this beautiful gift are at good place with [the] legacy [being] created,” the e-mail stated.
Painting only one panel of the north side of the building was suggested for this quarter so that space could be left for future expansion to the mural.
“The center directors feel that the success of this project will depend on all parties rising to the occasion and coming together in the spirit of understanding and common purpose,” the e-mail stated.
Fourth-year linguistics major and student intern at the Cross Cultural Center Michelle Hanley said she believes that the mural would have added positively to the campus and hopes the project will restart in the future.
“It would have tied in well with the purpose of the SCC and made a welcoming entrance into the building,” Hanley said in an e-mail interview. “People did want changes to the design and the 10-week quarter system didn’t really allow enough time for the design to be drafted, discussed, updated, finalized and completed.”
According to the mural workshop class, SCC administrators previously approved the mural design but decided to “censor” three-fourths of the mural due to “stringent expectations.”
“[The SCC administration] decided to not defend an academic class and its process,” the class said in a letter to SCC stakeholders. “Although we were willing to make a few adjustments, we decided that it would be false and untrue if we so drastically altered the design of our mural.”
The proposed mural design can be viewed at www.scc-mural.tumblr.com.
MUNA SADEK can be reached at email@example.com.