Traditionally, a mural is a work of art executed in a public space that is used to convey a social message. Central has over 100 murals painted on walls in academic buildings, garages, common areas and, well, everywhere! It’d be hard to visit our campus without catching a glimpse of a mural or two. Professor Mike Alewitz, who runs the mural program, talks about art’s ability to produce social change: “I started out as an advocate and protester for social injustices. It was only when I started going to art school at the age of thirty that I picked up on painting and then murals became an extension of my interest in advocacy,” he explains. For fifteen years, Alewitz has been teaching students about advocating social injustices through the mural form. The students discuss possible ideas and spend much of the class talking about their message before developing a framework, and then creating their public art which decorates our campus.
5. CCSU Mural Class – Swords to Plowshares
The Swords to Plowshares mural is located outside next to Vance Academic Center and Memorial Hall, facing the parking lot. Painted in 2007, this mural depicts the shop of Elihu Burritt, a New Britain resident who was a blacksmith, abolitionist, peace activist, and internationalist. Does the name sound familiar? He’s the man our library is named after! The mural was painted at a time when immigrant workers were being discriminated against across the country and the CCSU mural class wanted to make migrant workers feel welcomed at CCSU. The title Swords to Plowshares refers to the conversion of weapons into peaceful tools to represent unity and inclusion. The art is incredibly life like. The first time I walked by it, I thought there was an actual opening in the wall! The details of the doors, the brick oven, and the blend of the colors are amazingly realistic.
4. Peter Primeau – Untitled (9/11)
On the second floor of Maloney Hall, a mural painted by Peter Primeau honors the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The semester the attacks occurred, Professor Alewitz had every student create a mural inspired by the incident. “I saw the country rally together,” Primeau wrote, “It was the only time since I’ve been on this earth that I saw a whole America—white, black, brown, yellow, gay, straight, and everything in between—come together for a common purpose.” The eyes are Osama Bin Laden’s and the blue arms reaching for emergency responders belong to the victims. The towers bleed the American flag, cut by the Arabic sword. With detailed cracks and contrasting between light yellows and dark blues, the mural sparked Primeau’s artistic voice. He created an online company selling his art on T-shirts and you can check it out at http://www.hedonicdesignco.com.
3. Emily Sebas – Untitled (Alcoholism)
Inspired by one of her parent’s struggle with alcoholism, Emily Sebas’s mural is in the basement of Willard Hall. She felt it would be a great contribution to the art department since there is a drug and alcohol program on campus. She writes, “I wanted to paint this image as a means of coming to terms with my childhood and moving forward, and I hope it will help others as well.” Sebas depicted a girl drowning because she felt she could not breathe as a child since alcohol dominated the household. The use of the light orangey brown color for the alcohol and the neatness of the art really make the piece stand out. The image of the girl drowning has an emotional effect on the viewer as well. Sebas’s bravery and candidness about her life is embodied in her work and the mural symbolizes her triumph in overcoming her somber past.
2. Hama Pertab – The Poor and Homeless
Dedicated by the artist to the poor and homeless, Hama Pertab’s mural graces the outer hallways of Copernicus Hall. Pertab lived by St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen in Waterbury, Connecticut and often wondered what it meant to be homeless. She volunteered there one summer and interacted with the visitors, who are the subjects of her mural. Reminiscent of a Christian edition of Where’s Waldo? Pertab incorporated the image of Jesus Christ in the rear of the painting. Though Professor Alewitz tried to convince her not to include the Son of God, Pertab felt it true to herself to include Jesus in the finished product of her mural. The man in the blue skull cap to the right was an eighty–year old man named “Daniel” whom Pertab interviewed. On the day she unveiled her mural, she learned that he passed away just days after she spoke with him. With her use of deep facial detail and bright colors, Pertab realistically depicts her subjects, bringing light to an often misunderstood and forgotten population.
1. Nicole Johnson – Untitled (Beauty)
Painted by Nicole Johnson, this mural decorates the area between the first and second floors of Elihu Burrit Library. The work’s “focus is to empower viewers who struggle with body acceptance. Images of powerful confident women next to isolated figures exhibits the tension of an inner battle that these individuals face each day.” Originally, she wanted to depict these women nude, but was convinced otherwise with the concern of it causing a stir. Johnson’s message is bold and powerful; women are not represented in a realistic and equal way in our society and her mural challenges societal norms. In addition, her perfectly blended colors and incredibly realistic women highlight her exquisite technique.