Students, professors and alumni of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art met at E. Washington Street Apr. 25 to commence the four-hour process of painting a celebratory mural for the U-M graduating class of 2021.
Located between N. Thayer and Fletcher streets in front of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the mural will be on display until May 2. The mural’s medium is chalk paint, and additional chalk will be supplied for graduating seniors who wish to sign their names and decorate the motor-boards.
The mural was commissioned to celebrate the graduating class, whose last years at Michigan were impacted by COVID-19.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Natalie Guisinger, graduating Art & Design senior and Editor-in-Chief of SHEI Magazine, said tokens of appreciation like the mural can go a long way.
“This signifies the effort us seniors have put into these past four years,” Guisinger said. “It is interesting because we are in a unique situation of knowing what college was like before a pandemic, and now we are emerging into the real world where things are very uncertain. But I suppose one certainty is being able to celebrate us graduating.”
Art & Design professor Liz Guilmet wrote in an email to The Daily that this project is meant to commemorate the graduating class and showcase their achievements.
“We want them to know that even though we have been apart this year, we are thinking of them and want to celebrate their incredible achievements,” Guilmet wrote. “This is a high impact way for students to work together, and bring all of the schools together through visual art.”
Stamps alum Yen Azzaro elaborated on the dedication of the mural in an email to The Daily. She said the project emphasizes the leadership capabilities and artistic talent the students possess.
“This past year has been filled with many moments of social turmoil for multitudes of reasons,” Azzaro wrote. “For me, this project signifies collaboration and being in community with students, watching them lead. I’m really proud of them.”
Architecture sophomore Brianna Manzor said she hopes the mural will bring life to Ann Arbor streets that have not seen a normal graduation in two years.
“The planning and execution of the mural is a reminder to the seniors of how proud we are for them in accomplishing this huge part of their life,” Manzor said. “I wanted to communicate this celebratory energy that would fill the streets of Ann Arbor with family and friends through art.”
The planning process was fast-paced, with students having only met several times virtually to propose ideas and create a plan of action. Azzaro said students had the ability to take creative liberties and participate wholeheartedly in the design process.
Students met in front of the Rackham building to begin their work earlier this week on Sunday at 10 a.m. After splitting into two groups, students began tackling the lengthy process of scaling and transferring a digital rendering onto the rocky surface. Guisinger said there were a few roadblocks during the process.
“The University provided us with inaccurate measurements for the strip of road we were working with,” Guisiniger said. “We had extra room and Yen and Liz decided to write ‘Class of 2021’ at the bottom, which was a last minute decision.”
Manzor said she hopes to see celebrations like the mural carry into the future, regardless of COVID-19.
“I think that through this pandemic (students) have found creative and meaningful ways to show our support to those we care about,” Manzor said. “I think that these alternative celebrations will only enhance the large-scale in-person celebrations that would be hosted post-pandemic.”
Guilmet echoed Manzor’s hope for this tradition to carry on in the future for the next graduating class. Additionally, Guilmet said she thinks this mural represents an opportunity for Art & Design students to connect with the entire campus community.
“I hope the spirit of this effort continues in some way, whether that’s a 200-foot mural or something else,” Guilmet wrote. “The involvement of community members who are not graduating students showing up to support graduating students is important. The School of Art & Design needs more opportunities to share our talents across campus in the future, not just as a one time project during Covid.”
Daily Staff Reporter Nadir Al-Saidi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.