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Student Zarai Zaragoza ’18 (left) and artist Will Kasso Condry have led a yearlong effort to create a mural collection throughout the Anderson Freeman Center.

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Photo Essay: Creating Community Through Art

January 10, 2018

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Walking through the stairwells of the Anderson Freeman Center (AFC) at Carr Hall, it could be easy to forget that you’re in Middlebury, Vermont. One year after embarking on an extensive public art project involving more than a dozen Middlebury students, the artist Will Kasso Condry guided a tour through the transformed building that now sports colorful, thought-provoking murals from the moment you walk in the door. Condry, a Trenton, New Jersey, native who has helped many urban communities create public artwork, served as the Alexander Twilight Artist-in-Residence last spring and is currently teaching a winter term course on the history of graffiti.

“I’ve always gravitated toward hallways,” said Kasso Condry, surveying the stairwell at the west end of the building, which is now filled with murals. “For graffiti and street artists, spaces like this speak to you—they’re raw and rugged and unrefined. The possibilities are endless!”

The new aesthetic sensibility inside the old building was driven by student interest, said Associate Director Jennifer Herrera Condry. In the early stages of the Center, Herrera Condry asked students to jot down ideas about how they wanted the building to look and feel. “When I started to review their suggestions, it was murals, murals, murals on every page,” said Herrera Condry.

The building’s new designs depict a series of inspiring characters, some famous, others more obscure. The main lounge features the building’s namesakes, Mary Annette Anderson, valedictorian of the Class of 1899, and Martin Henry Freeman, a graduate of the Class of 1849 who went on to become the first African-American president of a U.S. college.

A few steps down the first-floor hallway is a striking portrait of the author, feminist, and activist Bell Hooks, one of her famous quotes wrapped into her hair. Down the east stairwell, a series of women artists, all painted by Will Kasso Condry, fills the walls, concluding with a tribute to the musician and activist Nina Simone.

View the east stairwell in 360. Click and drag to move around the image.

Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The west stairwell, a collaborative effort with students features a quote in large colorful lettering by the black feminist writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde: “Without community, there is no liberation.” The words wrap around the stairwell two floors to the lower level, where they end in a portrait of Lorde. Kasso Condry says students really drove the creative process on that project, completing the majority of work, except for a few portraits, on their own. All of the work was done with spray paint, mostly water-based.

Zarai Zaragoza ’18, a studio art major with a minor in education studies, has been on the project from the very start. Zaragoza worked as an assistant to Kasso Condry as he created the original murals of Anderson and Freeman in the main lounge, adding her own personalized touches to the background. Later she led a workshop for other students to extend that mural the full length of the entrance wall. Just before the holiday break, Zaragoza completed a major mural on a wall in the top-floor hallway. Her “Anderson Freeman Tree” depicts the ideals of the Center including unity, respect, support, community, and love.

Kasso Condry said the collaborative nature of the work with students was key to their success. “Everybody has a piece,” he said. “No one person can claim ownership, but everyone had a hand in building it.”

Photo essay by Roxxi Rivera ’18; Photos by Todd Balfour