A new large-scale mural celebrating diversity, equity and inclusion at Stony Brook was officially unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 8.
The mural, titled “Spread Your Wings,” adorns the front wall of the West Side Dining Hall building, which also houses the university’s LGTBQ* Services office. It was created by artist, alumna and current graduate student Katie X (Xiaohui Wang), who worked on the piece throughout the spring and summer.
“Today we get to unveil a mural that is the product of the collaborative energy, values, creativity and passion of Stony Brook University and our LBGTQ+ community,” said Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis in her remarks at the ceremony. McInnis added that in addition to being a “gorgeous work of art,” the mural marks an important moment in time for the university.
“Stony Brook is quickly rising to become one of the great research universities, but we’re also home to brilliant faculty, staff, dedicated healthcare workers and students who come here wanting to make a difference, looking for a university that will nourish big ideas, new perspectives and diverse voices,” she said. “This mural represents not only our inspiring past and our ambitious future, but also a moment in time where we can create a culture of togetherness and unity on this campus.”
The artwork was commissioned by the Stony Brook Campus Beautification Committee. McInnis said the committee was born out of the idea that art plays a crucial role in forming the identity and culture of a place, and that the mural is just the start of this committee’s beautification efforts.
“This is a celebration of who we are right now,” she said, “a diverse, inclusive community full of exciting collaborations, unexpected connections, and a deep commitment to one another.”
In February, the committee called upon the Stony Brook community to suggest what words should be weaved into the design. The suggestions that were received — including “we are one,” “be yourself,” “freedom,” and “love is love,” among others — are featured on the mural.
Maxine Moylan, coordinator of Multicultural Affairs in the Office of LGBTQ* Services and a Stony Brook alumna, spoke about Stony Brook’s commitment to diversity and what community looks like here.
“When I was a student, the LGBTQ* Center did not exist,” she said. “LGBTQ* Services was one officer and one student staff member. It’s so much more accessible and visible now. We’ve come a long way and that is due to the university’s commitment to creating more inclusive spaces on campus and to providing students with a place they can call their own. The campus LGBTQ* Center lets students know right from the get-go that this is a place for them.”
Moylan said that spaces like this, both the center and the mural, speak to that sense of inclusivity at Stony Brook.
“To me the mural is a visual representation of Stony Brook University’s commitment to creating and fostering an inclusive campus community,” she said. “It says ‘you belong here, and you have a place on this campus.’”
Mitch Trinka, digital media manager for advancement, has led the campus beautification initiative, and thanked President McInnis and Judith Brown Clarke, vice president for Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer, for their continued support.
“This idea was welcomed with open arms, dedicated funding, and most importantly, leadership,” he said. “When I first pitched this idea to a group of campus social media managers, all I had was a dream of a campus art initiative, one that would not only help unify the campus, but give student artists an opportunity to leave a legacy here and propel them into their future careers. After all our hard work, we’ve now got a busy Campus Beautification Committee working on multiple student artist projects and placemaking pieces across campus. We hope efforts like this will be a living part of the community.”
Trinka also thanked the artist, Wang, who was unable to attend the ceremony, recognizing her creativity and artistic passion.
“I remember when we first started this conversation, and here we are looking at this incredible, beautiful mural,” said Clarke. “I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I am to be part of this initiative.”
The mural is part of a campus-wide beautification initiative to feature the creativity of student artists. More artwork is scheduled to be featured in various campus locations, including a mosaic with autumn leaves in conjunction with the SBU Osher Life Learning Institute (OLLI), a crane project with the Origami Club, and a river rock mosaic done in conjunction with the Stony Brook University Student Government to be displayed outside the Student Activities Center. There is also a project scheduled to coincide with Stony Brook’s upcoming CommUniversity Day on September 23.
— Robert Emproto