Art students paint an uplifting mural over racist graffiti

Art students paint uplifting mural over racist graffiti

After discovering anti-Asian graffiti in the Comstock Art Facility, students came together to paint a mural that reads "SU UNITED."
Published: November 21, 2019
Comstock Art Facility mural
SU studio art students paint a "SU UNITED" mural over the racist graffiti found recently in the Comstock Art Building.

Student artists took up their brushes against the hate speech on campus on Thursday, repainting a wall marked with anti-Asian graffiti earlier this week. Students from the School of Art painted the wall near the 043 Studio with a colorful mural to unify and encourage all who walk through the building.

The mural that reads ”SU UNITED” drew many students throughout the day who came to campus despite their fears to participate in a permanent action to support targeted students. Intended to be an ongoing project, the mural currently depicts hearts, peace signs, flowers, Otto the Orange and other lighthearted images and encouraging mantras.

Some students, like freshman Emma Edelin, pulled inspiration from the #NotAgainSU posters hanging in the Barnes Center. Experiencing these incidents in her first semester of college made Edelin want to leave campus and return early to her family.

“I just want to go home, but I am glad I stayed so I could be one of us,” Edelin said, gesturing to the students mixing paint.

Students painting mural

Rayna Schiering paints the SU in SU UNITED

Students painting mural

Emma Edelin paints the UNITED in SU UNITED.

The mural came from a suggestion by Rayna Schiering, a freshman in studio art, during a roundtable discussion in Deborah Dohne’s class on Tuesday afternoon.

“The second I heard about all this, I was like, ‘I’m getting involved.’ I want people to know I support them. I want people to know I’m here for them,” Schiering said.

Schiering, who believes the voices of art students often go unheard because of their location away from Main Campus, wanted to encourage her classmates to express themselves in a way that’s not hateful towards others.

“I think that we’re very sad but we want to bounce back quickly to show them we’re strong,” Schiering said.

Students painting mural
Each student adds a personal touch to the community art piece.

Present to help paint the mural was studio art senior Jessica Oh, who discovered and reported the graffiti on her way to class on Tuesday morning. This incident and the subsequent discouraging interaction with DPS are just the most recent events in the history of racial discrimination she has experienced in the last four years at Syracuse University.

“I generally don’t think that anything changes in the Syracuse University community, if the students themselves don’t pursue that change,” Oh said.

Studio Arts Associate Professor Deborah Dohne said she was saddened that the graffiti compromised the safe, comfortable environment that promotes creativity in the Comstock Art Building. Originally, she felt helpless about the situation, discouraged that her students were and are facing these injustices.

But the mural has given power back to the students and faculty at the School of Art.

“I’m proud of them,” Dohne said. “I feel like this is what SU is really about. The majority of people here are proactive. They want to be part of the community, and they want to be good people. I think this (mural) is using art in a community situation and using it for something positive.”