By Belle Martinelli
Mikayla Hinds, mural for campus center north (photo via Elian)
For the first time in years, the PSGA has held the Public Arts Competition, open to students of all majors, to submit their work and potentially be chosen to install their art on campus.
“It’s nice because it’s student input for student artwork on campus,” said Frankie Kadir, Purchase senior and Neuberger curatorial and production coordinator intern. “My kind of position is just really advocating for a diverse kind of arts on campus that’s [for] the public eye.”
Kadir and the rest of the public arts committees’ goal is to engage the public eye and speak to the artist’s voice as well as the voice on campus.
“I really do think anyone and everyone is an artist whether or not you do that professionally,” said Kadir. “[With] it being SUNY Purchase, we are the arts school of the SUNY system!”
Michaela Cudjoe in the studio (photo via Elian)
The competition was announced when students returned from winter break, with the deadline to submit being the end of February, which eventually got an extension into early March. Students had to apply for a specific spot on campus, with up to eight sites for murals and one sculpture. Along with their site preference, they had to submit a proposal, a developed and full-colored sketch and a resume. Students chosen were awarded up to a $1500 stipend to use for materials, with the plywood for the murals being provided.
Junior Hex Geissinger was selected to create a sculpture in front of Fort Awesome. The winning muralists and their locations include May Elian, Stood west wall, Michaela Cudjoe, Campus Center South, Mikayla Hinds, Campus Center North and Viola Velonis, library west wall.
“I feel like I tended to go towards sculpture, even when I was a kid,” said Geissinger. “I would just glue stuff together and I was really interested in that, so that’s what I decided to do for college.”
Geissinger’s sculpture is a large fiberglass tiger with a working clock in its chest, inspired by their love for circus elements. “I really like bright colors
Full color and technical sketches of Geissinger’s sculpture (photos via Geissinger.)
and maximalism and circus type of stuff and I have a lot of clowns and stuff in different art I do,” they said.
Junior May Elian, chosen for the Stood west wall mural, also pulled inspiration from her personal life for her work. The Stood west wall mural is the largest of the five, spanning four panels of plywood.
“I didn’t specify how big, you know, I said whatever!” said Elian. “Because I don’t care, it’s an adventure--this is a good challenge.”
Elian immigrated with her family from Lebanon to Canada in the early 2000s
Geissinger’s finished sculpture,
installed at Fort Awesome (photo via Geissinger)
Elian worked as a journalist in Lebanon. She’s worked
through war and has seen some of her colleagues assassinated for their beliefs.
Elian’s piece was inspired by “The Creative Process” by James Baldwin.
At the end of the article, Baldwin writes, “Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.”
“Make freedom real” is the line that inspired Elian’s work, a mural weaving together social figures and activists, sparks of revolutions, and people who fought for not just their freedom, but freedom for all.
“Freedom is very important to me,” said Elian. “I think people take it for granted here.”
“Make Freedom Real” by May Elian (photo via Elian)
Civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X join revolutionary figures Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Mahsa Amini in Elian’s rendition of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Also shown in her piece is her former boss and CEO of the newspaper she worked at in Lebanon, Gebrane Tuéni, who was assassinated for his opinions. He can be seen holding up a pen, next to Samir Kassir, a columnist at the newspaper, who was also assassinated.
She also incorporates words of freedom and liberty throughout the piece, in languages like Spanish, French, Arabic and Farsi. The Statue of Liberty can be seen on the far-left panel, another symbol important to Elian.
“I’m still very nostalgic to the Statue of Liberty,” she said. “[To me] liberty represents true freedom.”
Elian and all the other artists’ work will be going up before summer break! Be sure to check it out around campus.