The Black Student Coalition will host an open house Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. for those who want to view the mural.
In the past few months, new student and alumni artwork has begun to define significant campus spaces. Ambrice Miller '09 painted an historical mural in the Multicultural Office in August, and now Stewy Robertson '15 has followed with a mural in the Black Student Coalition (BSC) house on Patterson Court.
The BSC was founded in 1967 and has occupied its house since 1981. According to Daavonia Womack-Lee ‘14, BSC president, "The original mission was to provide a space on campus for students of color, specifically black students, but also for anyone interested in the experience of black students. Now I feel like it's a little different. We're inclusive of students of any color or minority, because there are aspects of being a minority at Davidson that we all share."
The concept for the BSC mural has also transformed over the years. The BSC originally wanted an historical mural, with members selecting figures they considered significant to themselves and the black experience in general. But Womack-Lee noted that the idea had complications. "Ten years down the road, it might mean something to us, but not to others," she said. "We didn't want to have to include a story with it, or force an explanation, so we decided instead on artwork representative of the organization's logo, which is unchanging."
Womack-Lee commissioned Robertson during the spring semester to create the mural. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Robertson grew up tracing and selling Dragon Ball Z drawings, and didn't receive formal art training until he attended Lawrenceville boarding school in New Jersey. He decided to major in studio art at Davidson after completing an advanced drawing class with Visiting Assistant Professor Nate Rogers.
His final project in the class involved translating a drawing to a four by five foot surface. He said the assignment was difficult, but it reassured him that art had technical components that he enjoyed. "Nate convinced me that if you can stay up all night doing art multiple times a week, then it's right for you," said Robertson.
The mural provided a great opportunity for Robertson, who wanted to work on a larger piece of art after taking a sculpture course and explore street art. Aside from using the BSC logo and a variety of colors, he had free reign over the mural's design. He explained, "My style is metamorphosis, or some type of mash-up of scenes. I've always been interested in mixing visual elements, but they never actually have meaning until I'm finished. Then I find meaning in it or someone else will point it out."
The BSC mural's composition and meaning evolved as Robertson painted. It began simply as a circular logo with lines of Afrocentric-inspired colors containing black markings and radiating to the edges of the walls. During the process, the lines became wavy, and the markings became geometric designs inspired by Japanese, African, and American street art. Half of the mural featured the markings in the colored lines, while the other half featured them in the white lines, resulting in a black hand and white hand. Robertson viewed the final imagery as representing the merger of multiple races.
Womack-Lee had a similar reaction to the work. She said, "I like how he did it, because it reflects a lot about what the BSC is trying to do. It's not like we're trying to unite the whole campus, but we are trying to bridge the gap of understanding."
She said that the mural has not only made the BSC house livelier, but also more inviting to all students. "We want to be an organization that makes people think about race. We want everyone to attend our events and have a good time, but we also want to share us with you."