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A detail from the new mural extension created in McCullough Student Center near the mail room. Forty students joined artists Will Kasso Condry (Kasso) and Isaias Crow to create the new work during winter term.

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New Mural Reflects Student Experience

January 30, 2019

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – For a week during winter term, 40 students joined with two artists to paint a colorful new mural in the McCullough Student Center mailroom. Their collaboration continued the transformation of the building that began in April 2018 when artists and students covered the hallway that connects Crossroads Café and the mailroom with brightly painted murals. Two artists who were involved in the original effort—Will Kasso Condry (Kasso) and Isaias Crow—designed the new artwork that connects to the themes and iconography of the first project. Painting took place January 14–21.

“The first mural stemmed from the collaboration between the students who shared their unique experiences at Middlebury and the artists who created a beautiful vessel to commemorate those stories,” said Sean Rhee ’21. “I felt the same excitement and creative catharsis when I had a variety of conversations with this year’s mural artists or when I was laughing with my friends while painting the wall together. Slowly but surely, the students were ‘taking over’ the student center once more.”

“Students came out to help us paint throughout the week,” said Kasso. “Their additional ideas, positive energy, and willingness to participate is what really brought it home."

Titled Higher Wisdom, the new mural occupies two walls, including a 40-foot wall that features the bodies of a man and a woman lying head to head. Snakes, planets, flowers, and other images surround them. The mural on the second wall is centered around a quote from Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist: “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

Slide Show

“The central themes of the new work are similar to those in the first mural: balance, interconnectedness, harmony, growth, and of course, community,” said Kasso. He added that the main design ideas emerged on January 13 during a daylong workshop on trauma narratives with 23 students. Meagan Corrado, a licensed clinical social worker and mosaic artist, led the session.

“We also incorporated wisdom, compassion, and love as themes since student conversations from the workshop focused on these ideas too,” said Crow. “I feel we captured the essence of what the students expressed.”

The workshop concluded with each student’s creation of a small piece of visual or written art. The finished pieces surround much of the quote on the second wall.

Maria Farnsworth, a member of the Student Activities staff, recommended Nhất Hạnh’s quote for one of the murals during the workshop. “I came across it in a book I was reading,” said Farnsworth, “and liked it because it reflects compassion and a willingness not to be judgmental.”

“Isaias, Jennifer, and I also gave some deep reflection to the themes,” said Kasso, referring to his fellow artist and to Jennifer Herrera Condry, associate director of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center and his wife. She and Kasso had organized the first project, titled Gentle Ripples, and teamed up again after the Student Activities Office suggested the idea for a second mural in McCullough.

“The trauma narratives workshop was consistent with how we approached the first McCullough mural,” said Herrera Condry, “and gave students space to reflect on their personal experiences and connect them to a collective vision.” 

The Student Activities Office, Herrera, and Kasso will host an official unveiling of the new murals in February.