A Mural for Unity Strikes Back at Hate Speech

School News

By: Micah Berger-Sollod

In the face of hateful and demeaning graffiti earlier this year, some students at the Baltimore School for the Arts have decided to take an artistic approach to combating intolerance.

The Jewish Student Group, in association with other student groups like the Student Government spearheaded a new project to create a mural that celebrates diversity and highlights the importance of unity. As the project nears completion, the student groups are eager to share their message with the wider community and inspire others to take action against hate and discrimination.

After a series of swastikas appeared in school bathrooms early on in the school year, Senior Eliyah Burg of the Jewish Student Group and Senior Quinn Bryant of the Student Government began brainstorming ways to take a proactive approach to combating hate. Bryant said, “At a Jewish Student Group Meeting, they had invited club reps, and from that meeting, we decided to have a big collaborative mural that all students could work on.”

The driving idea for the mural was simple, create a mural that could be worked on by all students regardless of painting ability and have it be prominently displayed as a symbol of unity. 

The process of choosing a location for the mural was lengthy and the team considered many locations including the lobby but eventually went with the fourth floor to the ease of creating it there and because people constantly walked past the area.

“They wanted it to be something everyone could work on and add their own touch but because we have obviously had issues with people writing hateful stuff we didn’t want it to be too free.” said Bryant. The solution was a paint by numbers concept.

Originally, a Purple Chair member began possible sketches of the mural; eventually, Bryant was assigned as the main designer. The original approach she took was basing her sketches off of various words that other club representatives wanted the mural to represent. “Some words that I could use to brainstorm, unite, collaboration, community, equality,” Bryant said.

Over winter break, Bryant began sketching possible designs for the mural. Early designs included six heads of diverse ethnicities and a background of flowers or a big text that reads “Unity” in the center, surrounded by symbols of each department.

After winter break the committee of club representatives came together and chose two of Bryant’s sketches hoping to combine them for the final mural.

Over the next weekend, Bryant made a much larger sketch combining the two ideas and began working with faculty members Ayanna Freelon and Archie Veale on coloring and the paint by numbers concept.

The original idea was that each club representative would come in on different days and work on the mural but then Freelon, the artistic assistant to BSA’s director, had the idea that it could be a Spring Fest activity that anyone could participate in to make it a unifying effort.

“That was really beautiful,” Bryant remarked. 

Spring Fest was incredibly successful with tens of different students coming together to work on the mural along with members of the Jewish Student Group and Bryant. After Spring Fest, a cohort of various visual art students came together to paint areas off limits to the normal student.

Today the mural remains in the fourth floor hallway as a lasting legacy of Burg, Bryant, and a coalition of other artists devoted to the honor of all students.

“We communicate most clearly through our art, and so because the art came from us, it said what we didn’t have any other way to say, and spread the message we wanted to spread in our unique BSA way,” said Burg.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org.

Photographs captured by Quinn Bryant and Sophia Richardson for the BSA Muse