Students write future goals on mural outside Bartlett

By Conor Snell

Students gathered in front of Bartlett Hall last Thursday to write their lifelong aspirations in chalk on a new mural that’s set to remain on display until the end of the semester.

The mural, a set of five black rectangular pieces of plywood buried into the ground on the Bartlett lawn, bears the prompt “Before I Die I Want To…” stenciled in white spread along the tops of the boards. Students wrote their messages in multicolored chalk, which was in contrast to the boards’ black background.

Some wrote personal goals, like “Do a Fulbright in Malta,” or “Visit New Zealand.” Others penned more comic reflections, including “Hug an alien.” Many simply left hopes for the future, like “Find my soulmate,” or “Make people happy.” The fixture is part of a larger effort by Student Action, a student interest group and registered student organization, to “beautify the UMass campus.” Inspired by a July 2012 TED talk by Candy Chang titled “Before I Die I Want To…,” the group began a movement, called “Concrete Campus,” aiming to “create a lasting public art presence on campus,” according to Student Action co-founder Dean Curran, a senior at UMass.

The group hopes the mural will help convince the University’s administration that more of the blank walls around campus should be turned into what Curran calls “democratized murals,” or murals created by students, for students.

“We believe there is a transformative effect to public art,” said Curran, who noted that he has had the idea for a mural like this since he founded Student Action with Christian Waterman in the fall of 2011. “Murals like this give students the opportunity to interact physically with the campus.”

“With ‘Concrete Campus’ we’re trying to foster community, and support artists doing their art,” said Student Action member and UMass senior Rebecca Patt.

According to Patt, Student Action held a similar event last year outside of Machmer Hall, which she characterized as “not huge, but a good starting point.” Both Patt and Curran characterized this event as “very successful.”

Student Action partnered with TEDxUMassAmherst on the project after the two groups met in the Campus Center. The groups were tabling and handing out information to passersby next to one another when they began to talk about their respective projects. They then decided to join together for the planning and execution of the mural.

“We were planning to do a physical art exhibition leading up to the convention on Saturday,” said freshman Andrew DesRochers, who worked in marketing for TEDxUMassAmherst. TEDx held its “Innovative Thinking” exhibition in Mahar Auditorium last Saturday, and, according to DesRoches, the project “seemed like a good way to get a more physical presence on campus.”

Student Action received a $1,000 grant from the University to help fund the event.

Conor Snell can be reached at [email protected]