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Students Paint Wall with “Hope” at Mount Wachusett Community College

Four student artists crouch in front of a colorful mural they created
MWCC Art Club students pose with the mural that they conceptualized and painted this semester.

This semester, inspired by recent tragedies, the MWCC Art Club decided to take action through creation. “We wanted to show that in dark times there is still hope,” said Camilo Almarales, an art major who will graduate in 2019. Almarales, together with Art Club members Alyson Bois, Nick Lutz and Blake Denmark, painted a mural that visually communicates this message. “Our inspiration to do the mural was for all the tragedies that have occurred, all the shootings and natural disasters that unfortunately affected many people.”

What did the students seek to communicate with their artwork? “We hope that when people see this artwork they have a moment of peace, even if it’s just for a second. They can forget all the stress and trouble in their lives and have that peace and maybe a little bit of hope that things will get better,” said Almarales.

Jason Zelesky, Dean of Students, praised the students’ message. “The Art Club’s mural is a fitting metaphor for the role that MWCC seeks to have in the lives of our students. We want our students to propel forward with the hope that their education will open opportunities for a better, more fulfilling life. We want our students to believe in a better tomorrow and be active agents of change in our community. This mural is a lasting symbol of the importance of hope, perseverance and optimism – all values consistent with our commitment to student success,” said Zelesky.

Faculty Gave Support, Donations

The students were advised by Tom Matsuda, chair of the Art Department, who was quick to credit the students. “They created this through their own initiative. They were responsible for developing the idea, meeting with the president, purchasing materials, coordinating, and painting. They did it all while keeping up with their studies, work, and other responsibilities,” said Matsuda. Art professor Joyce Miller lent her encouragement and provided funds for the paint the students would use.

It Began with a Wish List

As he began the concept sketch of the mural, the members of the Art Club gave Almarales their wish list of elements to include: a dove, a yin yang, a landscape, a sunset and a heart. Putting all the elements together was “interesting” process, said Almarales, but ultimately rewarding because the Art Club and then the President of the College, James Vander Hooven, gave it their approval.

Two art students on ladders beginning to paint tree trunks
The beginning stages of the mural project

Finding the Center

Transferring the sketch from paper to wall required a little math and some patience. “I had to map the sketch, find the center, and make sure it was all symmetrical,” he said of the roughly 20 foot square mural. When the whole image was sketched onto the wall, it was finally time for the Art Club to begin painting. They first applied a base color for the trees, sky, and dove, a process that took days and attracted the attention of students passing by. “We had a lot of support from students who were excited to see it come together,“ said Almarales.

Blending Colors

The most difficult part of the process may be what came next. After putting in more details, it was necessary to blend the colors. However, the students were not using artist’s oil or acrylic paints. “We were just using latex paint from Home Depot. It’s hard to blend colors with that paint, but given the circumstances we worked with what we had and it was pretty successful,” said Almarales. After weeks of painting while perched on a ladder, the mural was complete.