By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele
Every academic year marks a time of new beginnings for the McMaster community – new students, families visiting the campus, faculty, staff and student clubs coming together to start the term, and so on.
During Welcome Week 2018, the Student Success Centre installed a new mural to celebrate McMaster’s commitment to a Brighter World.
“The Brighter World brand really inspired us to think critically about the university’s commitment to societal health and well-being, and how we are inspiring students explore possibilities to make the world a better place,” says Gina Robinson, associate dean of Student Affairs and director of the Student Success Centre.
“We wanted to make a visual and impactful representation of the Brighter World brand for everyone who enters the Centre to experience, one that would make a bold statement and create energy for the entire community. It demonstrates our ownership and accountability to the brand and reminds us of the important role we play in influencing the direction our students take in their lives.”
The Student Success Centre collaborated with local artist and art educator, Stephanie Seagram, to develop a creative, student-focused interpretation of what a Brighter World might be like for those who interact with the Centre.
This process involved not only reflecting on the student experience, but also incorporating all of the important stakeholders who play a role in the Centre’s work, including staff, partners across campus, employers and the Hamilton community.
As Stephanie Seagram shares, “One of the really exciting parts of the project is getting to sit down with people to hear the story that they want to be told. Through that process, visual shapes, colours, sense of movement and direction, and focal points come to play in my head and I love to bring that together into one cohesive piece… it was a really satisfying part of the process for me.”
The result was a multi-dimensional art piece that brings together different media to tell the Student Success Centre’s story in a variety of ways. As the description of the mural states:
The collision of shapes, images, textures, words and colours come together in unity to tell a story: our story. From the moment you accept your offer of admission, you become an important part of our McMaster community and a unique, valued voice at the Student Success Centre. This piece celebrates each of the perspectives you bring to our campus and shares a story of our time together. The triangles across this piece are a symbol of innovation, collaboration, relationships, community and possibility. The McMaster maroon with the bright blues, greens and yellows gesture towards McMaster’s commitment to creating a Brighter World, one in which you play a key role. This is why the images in the piece are of students from our McMaster community, taking part in this vision for a Brighter World on our campus, in the community and across the globe. Most importantly, the words painted across this piece are of how we collaborate with our students, campus and community partners to discover, develop, foster connectivity, inspire others and have an impact. As you go through your journey with McMaster, we hope you find strength in our diversity and find optimism in yourself.
The mural was installed during Welcome Week 2018, in line with the optimism and sense of renewal that Welcome Week brings. Students and members of the McMaster community visited the Centre during the installation and were able to submit and share their own interpretations. Now the piece, which sits at the Centre’s front entrance, continues to serve as a bold invitation to those who pass by to challenge themselves to be part of the Brighter World brand.
The mural is more than a beautiful art piece; it’s a story that inspires students to think about how university is a foundational time in their development. The words and phrases, painted on the uppermost layer, hold textures, colours and pieces from each of the layers below, infusing many different experiences into one larger picture that represents past experiences at McMaster and what the future holds. The mural also celebrates McMaster’s diverse community and culture with its vibrancy.
Recognizing that each of us play a role in McMaster’s story, these words are also an invitation to the broader community, serving as a reminder to staff, faculty, and those we work with about how we can make a difference today and every day in the lives of students.
“We welcome everyone to the Centre to experience the mural firsthand, and share with us their personal connection,” says Gina Robinson.
As the Student Success Centre gets ready for the winter term, there are three commitments that drive its programs and services: diversity, resiliency, and self-efficacy. Gina shares, “We’re being really intentional about how we can provide our students and recent alumni with the tools they need to be successful and make their mark in the world. Whether it is academics, careers, money, or championing social change, we know diversity, resiliency, and self-efficacy play a big role, during university and after.”