SUNY Cortland will formally recognize the work of three students whose graphic design panels depict themes from the Black Lives Matter movement during an unveiling ceremony in the newly renovated Moffett Center Forum on Thursday, May 5.
The installation, which resulted from a semester-long “call for student artists” to design a mural reflecting the movement as well as diversity related subjects, will be unveiled at 4 p.m.
The project, developed by the university’s Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office in partnership with Dowd Gallery, the Art and Art History Department, and the Black Lives Matter Mural Committee, is free and open to the public.
“The coordination of the creation of the mural was overseen by a committee of campus professionals and students, who have been anxiously waiting for this lovely piece of art to be installed on campus,” said Cyrenius Weagba Fitzjohn ’19, SUNY Cortland’s assistant chief diversity and inclusion officer.
“More history and context of the process will be shared at the unveiling,” Fitzjohn said. “We hope folks will be able to join us for this great moment for our campus.”
The students whose works were chosen for the Black Lives Matter panel series are Katherine Kressner, with two pieces represented in the installation; and Vanessa Leon Basurto and Shannon Delaney, with one artwork apiece.
The three graphic design and digital media majors were selected as project artists in December following a competition that attracted 21 online entries during the fall semester. A bold, four-panel BLM mural, created by the students to reflect the national struggle against racial and social injustice, was mounted in the newly renovated Moffett Center Forum during the spring semester.
A previous display of selected competition entries, titled the “Black Lives Matter Mural Submission Exhibition,” was on exhibit from Feb. 28 to April 1 in Old Main Colloquium. The winning illustrators also were honored at the time with a reception.
The installation is tied into recent national history.
“In 2013 Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi began the #BlackLivesMatter movement in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of Trayvon Martin’s murder,” Fitzjohn said.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, the movement gained global recognition and momentum as the founders worked to affirm the lives of Black queer and trans people, disabled people, undocumented people, individuals with criminal records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum, noted Fitzjohn, citing Black Lives Matter literature.
The campus’ installation project, suggested and personally funded by alum Tim Bennett ’07, was moved forward by a partnership of faculty, administrators and students.
Bennett, a local business owner, entrepreneur, and SUNY Cortland Alumni Association board member, supports numerous local civic endeavors and funded a Black Lives Matter street graphic in downtown Cortland as the nation wrestled with racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death. He approached SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum about doing something illustrating the same concept on campus.
Lorraine Lopez-Janove, chief diversity and inclusion officer, created the BLM Mural Committee, which includes Bennett; Gia Greenidge, founding and current president of the NAACP chapter at SUNY Cortland; Taylor Hunter, president of the Student Government Association (SGA); Tatum Pittman, SGA diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator; SUNY Cortland graduate Shaneya Simmelkjaer ’21, a former campus NAACP president; Brianna Soogrim, the current Black Student Union vice president; Fitzjohn; Dowd Gallery director Jaroslava Prihodova; Martine Barnaby, professor of graphic design, Art and Art History Department; Zach Newswanger, associate vice president for facilities management; and Seth Asumah, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and chair of the Africana Studies Department.
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