Murals with a Message

The Mural Painting Society creates first on-campus mural in its pilot year

Caitlin Villacrusis, Photographer

Visual freshman Rebecca Chen and theatre junior Paula Navarrete paint tomatoes as part of the new Good Thyme Gardening Club mural between buildings 3 and 4. This was the club’s first on-campus mural, so visual senior and Mural Painting Society co-vice president Gyongy “Lili” Szaszvarosi’s hopes that this project sets a “precedent for other clubs to collaborate” and helps to create “a single community (within Dreyfoos).” “Murals really help build a sense of community in physical spaces,” Szaszvarosi said. “When you have a lot of people, especially who are part of the community, working to turn a blank wall into something else, it really does make it feel more personal to the people who exist in that space. In the case of this mural, it’s the students themselves who are painting it and deciding to make the space more visually interesting.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Szaszvarosi paints a blade of grass with one of the six colors used in the mural. Angling herself in different positions as she painted long, individual strokes, each spot on the wall was “one step in the process of making a bigger project” to her. “It’s like all my attention is focused on the mural and I’m really in the moment,” Szaszvarosi said. “I’m not particularly thinking about what happened during the day or what’s going to happen later in the day. You’re here and you’re working on the mural.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Sharing a red paint can, Chen and Navarrete paint tomatoes side-by-side as sounds of brushes dipping into the paint filled the silence. During the club’s third shift, the group painted over the chalk outlines, in both an individual and joint effort. “Some members (are) really quiet, and they work best when they’re either listening to music or just in silence,” Szaszvarosi said. “Some members work better when they’re constantly conversing with people around them.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Digital sophomore Lilly Hasozbek-Garcia kneels on the tarp and paints a ladybug, occasionally pausing to look up at the copy of the sketch taped on the adjacent wall. “When we started off, it’s like, ‘wow, how is this gonna turn into something good?’” Hasozbek-Garcia said. “The (chalk) sketches are weird-looking, but you slowly work on it, piece by piece. I was just working on a small part of the ladybug, (and) I was like, ‘oh, God, we don’t have any time, like how would you do this?’ But I saw on Instagram the recent progress on the painting: it came so far from the original sketch.” (Caitlin Villacrusis)
Standing on the ladder, visual sophomore Iliana Beauchamp sketches leaves with chalk. This was her second shift on the ladder, meaning she had to undergo mandatory ladder safety training for the mural and sign waivers to be able to participate.
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Szaszavrosi bends down to finish painting near the bottom of the wall. For many members of the club, this was their first time working on a mural, though Szaszavrosi was an exception, as she has painted a few prior to this one in various locations, and she landed an officer position despite feeling “generally unqualified” to be one. “With members who’ve never actually worked on one and are just being introduced to the process, (…) it feels like a mentorship,” Szaszavrosi said. “We basically started from scratch: looking online how to budget a mural, what paints to use, (and) how to lay down tarps. I feel like we’re building up a foundation for everyone else to be involved in the process of mural painting.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Szaszavarosi paints a blade of grass within the chalk sketches drawn by the first shift on Monday, Nov. 29. Over the span of the eight shifts of this ongoing project, each day brought in different members and new tasks corresponding to the current stage of the mural. “Mural painting is such a collaborative effort. You could do it solo, but not only is it technically more effective, it’s more enjoyable with other people. (There’s a) sense of getting along and becoming familiar with people outside of just attending the (same) event,” Szaszvarosi said “It’s something that the other officers and I really wanted to cultivate when we became an actual official club.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Standing by a yellow paint can, visual freshman Brisny Munguia begins painting the edges of a leaf. Paint cans were handed to members at the beginning of the shift along with each participants’ respective role. “Everyone trusts each other,” Beauchamp said. “They flow really well together. No one’s getting in the way; if you need to move the ladder, people understand. There’s a very cohesive environment.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Beauchamp looks up from the picture of the original design on her phone to guide her as she outlines plants in the top right corner of the mural. Viewing the difficulty in adapting to the scale difference as an obstacle that improved her “versatility” as an artist, she rubbed the chalk with her finger as she leaned back, frequently referring to her phone for a comparison between her sketch and the intended design. “To step back and look at it, it’s really important. Either you realize you’re really off track and the proportions are incorrect, (or) you’re right,” Beauchamp said. “You step back and look at it, (and) you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, I did that.’ It’s really cool (to see it) all coming along.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Focused on each stroke, Szaszvarosi cleans up the edges of one of the leaves. For her, the experience of mural painting was not exactly “meditative,” but rather “grounding”. “Mural painting, outside of making designs and the more technical parts of the mural, is really just repetitive movement,” Szaszvarosi said.
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Plucking a hair off the freshly-painted wall, Szaszvarosi is quick to describe the work scene as “not attractive.” Feeling forced to become “uncomfortably familiar” with the setting after painting over parts of the mural for long periods of time helped her to pick up on details such as this. “It’s very not-glamorous,” Szaszvarosi said. “I feel like mural painting is really easy to romanticize, like it’s this big thing, (but) then (there’s) hair strands and paint brush bristles stuck in the paint.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Munguia paints multiple coats of yellow to ultimately create one of the many leafs within the mural. “The mural spot isn’t really in a location that everyone knows about,” Beauchamp said. “I think it’ll attract more people to it, and it’s just going to add a pop of color to Dreyfoos.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)
Navarrete and Chen help put paint cans into boxes to bring to Visual Dean and club sponsor Lacey Van Reeth’s classroom. Before putting them away, the group finished their shift and had to hammer the paint can lids down. “With every event we do, we become more familiar with the members, especially based on the location,” Szaszvarosi said. “For a lot of members, one of the barriers (for) whether or not they can attend is how close it is to them. It’s nice being able to interact with a wider array of students rather than just (those who) seem to live down in Boca or up in Gardens. It’s really fun and exciting, because we have a lot of really cool members.”
(Caitlin Villacrusis)