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Mural weaves College’s past, present, future

By David Fialkow ’15

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Public art “can create relationships,” says Dee Craig, the Irish artist who collaboratively created the mural, above, this fall. Photo by Laurence Kesterson.

Members of the College community as well as campus visitors will notice a colorful, symbolic artwork affixed to the Science Center—a mural stretching the length of the two-story southeast wall, adjacent to the DuPont parking lot.

David “Dee” Craig, a muralist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has created many pieces depicting the changing nature of the conflict in his country, created the mural to depict the College community on the 150th anniversary of its founding and the 125th anniversary of the first higher education course in Peace and Conflict Studies, which the College pioneered.

The Irish artist, whose monthlong visit was funded by a Mellon Tri-College Creative Residency grant, was determined that the content of the mural would align well with the College’s distinct set of values and traditions.

“The whole mural, in a broad context, represents the past, the present, and the future aspirations of what I see as this community,” says Craig. “Back home, nine times out of 10, I’m working with a single-identity community, so the main challenge for me, and it was a good one, was coming here and working with such diversity. I hope the mural generates discussions about such things. Is there something we need to address? Is there not? It’s a way to bring discussions to the fore and set platforms for those discussions.”

Craig didn’t just paint the 24-feet-by-16-feet mural on thin nonwoven media but visited a variety of classes to discuss his personal experience with the conflict in Northern Ireland. He offered students a thought-provoking perspective on that history, allowing them to tie it to the work created on campus.

“It was a neat opportunity for students to hear Dee talk about what it was like to be a mural artist growing up in the midst of the conflict,” says Lee Smithey, associate professor of sociology and coordinator of the College’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program. “

“Dee gave a talk in a course I’m taking called Memory, History, Nation,” says Samantha Stevens ’15. “The course is about how nations construct collective memories, which was perfectly related to how Dee has depicted the conflict in Northern Ireland through his art. That understanding makes seeing the piece a much more interesting experience.”

Many members of the community also talked with Craig outside the classroom, as his workstation outside the Science Center provided a public place to connect. The project was truly interactive, with a team of students and faculty working with the artist to brainstorm ideas for what the final piece would look like.

“This experience has allowed people to get hands-on,” says Craig. The fact that the community can actively participate gives a sense of ownership. That ownership is so important. At the end of the day, this is the legacy I leave.”

Watch video of the installation here

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