College to Kick Off Campus Mural Project

In partnership with Creative Art Works, students will create the first public piece of art at Manhattan College on a wall below Founders Bridge.

Manhattan’s campus is full of classic, collegiate architecture — from arches and cupolas, to the beloved quadrangle. But this semester, students will have the opportunity to add a contemporary touch to the campus aesthetic as the College’s first public art project takes shape.

The College recently partnered with Creative Art Works (CAW), a nonprofit that provides dynamic visual arts and multimedia experiences to thousands of New York City youth each year to create commissioned artwork.

The partnership’s first project will result in a mural below Founders Bridge, next to the ground floor of Thomas Hall. The wall, which is seen by many who travel to and from residence halls, the Quad and Manhattan College Parkway, has been the site of discussion for years.

It’s only within the past few months that Mark A. Pottinger, Ph.D., chair of the visual and performing arts department and associate professor of music, was able to spearhead the partnership with CAW and begin recruiting students to join the effort.

“It’s a College-wide project in the truest sense,” says Pottinger, who heard back from nearly 80 interested students through an emailed survey. “We’re not just looking for students who have artistic talent, but really, anyone that’s willing to learn and leave their impact.”

From the 80, a core team of 15-20 students will be selected to work on the project on a weekly basis. They will be involved in the artistic process every step of the way, starting with the research and development of a theme that captures the College’s mission, as well as socio-political and cultural identity.

“I want it to be something that people can look at and understand, whether they are current freshmen or alumni from 50 years ago,” says Carlos Perez ’16, a secondary education major and RA for the Visual and Performing Arts residence community. “I hope that they see Manhattan College at the center of it all — a community of educated learners who want to make a positive difference in the world.”

This shared idea is what makes the collaboration a natural fit, says executive director and CEO of CAW, Brian Ricklin.

“The Lasallian community and Creative Art Works both share a common belief in promoting social justice through education and community involvement,” Ricklin says. “This is more than just an art project — it’s a platform for discussing the role public art-making plays in connecting communities.”  

Lead teaching artist Sarah Connaro and teaching artist assistant Jessie Novik will be working with Manhattan students for the duration of the project, which is scheduled to kick off with cleanup in late February, followed by a month of idea generation, education and warm-up exercises. Both Connaro and Novik have years of experience working with young people to create community-based public art. This is Connaro’s second mural project with CAW and Novik’s fourth. When a theme has been chosen, the group will present a concept designed by the artists to the campus community — an important step in the process.

“We’re looking to engage all the stakeholders in and around the campus, including the Brothers, the faculty, the administration, the students and the surrounding neighborhood,” Ricklin adds.

Painting will begin in early April, and a grand unveiling and culminating event will take place during finals week, so that the mural is finished for graduation in mid-May.

“We’re thrilled to be working on the first publicly displayed, permanent outdoor piece of artwork by any student body in the history of the College,” Pottinger says. “Everyone benefits from this creative product.”

By Julie Benns