Eye-popping mural is a bold statement of diversity

Sierra Hall is the site of the first display of public art devoted to diversity and inclusion on campus

Eye-popping mural is a bold statement of diversity

Sierra Hall is the site of the first display of public art devoted to diversity and inclusion on campus

When I first heard about this opportunity, about painting the Sierra Hall mural, I was really excited. One because of the scale and Sierra Hall is the perfect wall for a mural but also because it speaks about discrimination.

I have encountered discrimination many times. Being able to express something so important at this time. It is now more than ever, essential, that we ask the question about race. About diversity. About gender. Are we that different from each other? And does it really matter if we are so different? So asking those questions, as an artist, is my main purpose.

Public art is the most powerful type of art that there is because it speaks to everyone. No matter your social status. No matter how rich or how poor you are. I'm always fascinating to reach those people that don't like art. To reach those people that don't go to the museums. And that they encounter a public art piece that is asking questions. That is not just beautiful then they are going to be exposed to it whether they want it or not. Anyone walking by. Anyone driving by. Anyone biking by is going to have to look and that is the most powerful thing about public art.

I remember coming in here on a Nevada Bound tour and driving past Sierra Hall, on the tour bus over to main campus, and seeing the gray building. Seeing all the other res halls and there was nothing that really kind of struck me about the diversity aspect here at the University. And I remember being apprehensive, but looking back, had I seen such a beautiful display of diversity in the Sierra Mural on my first few minutes of seeing campus, my decision would have been solidified then and there.

The concerns of the students, in relationship to this project, what I understood from the very start, when we were coming in, is their requests for greater diversity and inclusion representation on this campus. It was very important that this wasn't just simply an art mural but that it was a call to action. And that it would invoke greater conversation and potentially further social change on our campus. I think this mural is important because representation is something that's really important.

I think, as a student of color, as an immigrant, as a student who first came to this campus, coming from a really multicultural background seeing images of yourself is really empowering. With 40 percent of students being non-white there's not a lot of opportunities to see ourselves in the surroundings around us. Seeing yourself in a beautiful display is something that's really powerful.

In researching artists for this project, it was really important to us that we find an artist who had deep understanding for the concepts that the students were asking for. Which is a greater deeper more meaningful representation of diversity and inclusion on our campus. The artist that we found was not a far stretch for us because he graduated from our program in the Master of Fine Arts program in 2013. So we had several meetings with students about the design.

They told us that they were super interested in having Kaepernick's eyes. They were interested in having a saying on the quote. So then I came up with the general idea of the stripes going horizontally across the building. And then, like, with the different eyes, of like, different races, different religions. Once I showed it to them. They were really interested right away with the idea. Which I was surprised. We had the last picture of Colin Kaepernick up on campus. It was in the Argenta mezzanine. And then to have, you know, rha get this mural that features Colin Kaepernick 70 feet up in the sky is so amazing. Such a bold bright statement of diversity.

He was specifically looking at the architecture of Sierra Hall. It just carries a great deal of power, you know, that site-specific response to architecture. I think the quote serves a powerful message to all the people who see it. Because i know a lot of people in regards to issues that happen around the world, feel as though, well it's not me, so I shouldn't care about it. But I think the message that this mural and that quote conveys to them is that, yes, if an injustice happens, it's injustice against all of us not just against the one group or the person that's facing it. It means speaking up even when it's uncomfortable. There are times, when you think maybe speaking up isn't the right thing it might jeopardize relationships. But, I think, in the end speaking up gets us really far for others in our lives who maybe not do not have the same privileges as we do. That need their voices heard more than we need ours heard in the moment is very important.

I wanted our first mural piece to be something that screams and so loud in your face that anyone walking by could not look away from it. Today, when I saw the mural for the first time in person, I was taken aback at how just gigantic it was and how proud I felt to be a part of the process to make such a bold statement about diversity. All of us can be seen in this mural. We're all one body. We're all one student and we're all one Wolf Pack.

When I'm painting, I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time. And even though creating murals is not only challenging, spending 12 or like 14 hours a day painting, it is really hard. But, at the same time, it is really beautiful. I think this is a great start to more public art coming to campus. And I'm excited to see where this project takes us in terms of public art. I'm really excited about this project, in part, because it is the first of its kind on our campus, at the University of Nevada, Reno. And because of the ability for public art to actually impact dialogue and create social change. It feels meaningful and relevant. I think it is just the beginning. I always say that I came to the University as a painter and I left as an artist. So being back and I've been able to paint this mural. I feel honored, like to be able to create something for the University that gave me all those tools to become a professional artist today.  

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