Throughout the 2019 to 2020 school year, Salisbury University has suffered through a series of racist vandalism incidents throughout the academic buildings.
Terrorizing the halls with hate speech and racial slurs, the vandalizer has yet to be apprehended for these crimes. The student body at SU has since expressed feelings of fear, upset and disgust toward the vandalism, for a place in which they spend so much time had been defamed and their well-being threatened.
In response to these acts of hatred, a group of SU students came together with an idea to splash some permanence of inclusion and positivity on the walls where it all began with the creation of a mural in Fulton Hall.
SU senior and art and environmental science double major Adde Gross explained that the idea for the mural began as a result of the third vandalism incident in November.
“I was in Shane Hall’s environmental justice class, and we were all discussing it, and he asked us, ‘How can we respond?'” Gross said. “And someone proposed the idea for a mural, and I was like, ‘Yes!’”
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at SU Shane Hall conducts research on how the relationships between racism, militarism and climate change are represented in U.S. literature and popular culture.
In regard to his call to action, Hall explained that it all began with a class discussion. Hall highlighted that his environmental justice course is all about the intersections of how racism, sexism and other kinds of powered social dynamics affect environmental relations.
When news of the third incident broke, Hall explained that his students shared feelings of frustration, anger and sadness, but the biggest conversation was one of positive reaction.
"It seems like I think the logical way to go, after you are thoroughly upset and frustrated about anything, it's trying to find efficacy and agency within that," Hall said. "And so, I think the conversation turned toward ideas on how [SU] could react."
Given that Gross focuses on painting for her art major, she was more than willing to get the ball rolling for the campus mural. After class, Gross went to talk to chair of the art department Ed Brown along with Dean of the Fulton School of Liberal Arts Dr. Maarten Pereboom to see if the idea was a feasible one.
With support from Brown and Pereboom, Gross began getting a committee together, and thus the SU Mural Club was born.
Gross explained that the club members wanted to keep the whole process inclusive, so the members initiated a call for submissions.
“We wanted it to be a diverse group of people who were putting the effort in, who were actually doing the work, so it was inclusive and diverse throughout the entire process,” Gross said.
Gross explained that upon the first interest meeting, there was a lot of support from the campus community, with a turnout of about 40 people. At the first meeting, Pereboom also promised the club $2,000 for the Fulton Hall mural.
After a poll online for the location and design of the mural, SU senior and art major Hannah Wichrowski’s design was chosen.
Inspired by numerous other diversity murals and contemporary paintings that dealt with social issues, Wichrowski was sparked with creative muse. Upon hearing that her design had been selected, she explained the sense of shock and excitement she felt.
“It felt unreal,” Wichrowski said. “Like it was too good to be true, and I was so excited to get working on the project.”
Wichrowski’s design consists four faces meshed together into one with diverse selection of skin tones, each face connected to the one beside it and the date "11. 5. 2019" below it. This is the date that the student body came together in resilience against the hatred and held a march of solidarity on campus.
Wichrowski explained the impact she hopes her design will make not only on the current students at SU, but for the generations of students in years to come
“We wanted it to showcase the diverse faces of SU as one," Wichrowski said. “It symbolizes how we are all here learning and growing together and how we can gain a deeper understanding with each other by taking the time to see things from another perspective.”
Due to the current circumstances regarding COVID-19, the plans for the mural have been put on hold.
Wichrowski explained that this puts the club in a difficult predicament because currently, every member of the executive board of mural club is graduating in May.
“The club is facing a big problem. We need more passionate artists and activists to take over the mural club and finish this,” Wichrowski said. “We can’t let circumstances, even as horrible as these, stamp out the creativity and the voices of the students on our campus.”
Wichrowski highlighted that Mural Club is a group of passionate people who just want to see and celebrate the diversity on our campus through what we all have in common — a love of art.
It is Wichrowski’s hope that the passion and ideas for mural club will not die as a result of the pandemic.
To get involved in Mural Club, follow the club on Instagram @su_mural or contact Adde Gross @firstname.lastname@example.org.
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured image designed by Hannah Wichrowski.