A group of 40 students huddled together over a canvas. Indie pop and rock music played in the background. With black markers firmly in hand, the students searched for the perfect place to make their mark.
These Honors College students were some of the more than 100 people who worked on two murals alongside renowned artist Carol Brown Goldberg at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum.
The project –part of Tangled Nature, an exhibit featuring Goldberg’s works, currently on display at the Frost until May 21 – invited all of FIU to try their hand at drawing the murals. Inspired by Goldberg’s vision, the murals depict jungles, foliage and forests.
A perk of the project was getting to meet Goldberg. Many of the groups who drew on the mural got a personal tour of Goldberg’s Tangled Nature exhibit from the artist herself. She discussed her artwork, themes and inspirations.
“This is so gratifying. It feels like an authentic experience,” Goldberg says. “It’s people interacting, losing themselves in play. The students here are so warm. It feels like they love school, and they are enthusiastic. This museum is a very dynamic environment. When you have 40 people in a room drawing with music going…to me, it means that art has power.”
The interconnectedness of all things and the beauty of harmony and symmetry are a few themes present in the mural and reflective of Goldberg’s exhibit.
“In real life, foliage grows naturally and finds the light,” Goldberg says. “I see that as inspiration to myself and, hopefully, to others. I look at marks as moments of our lives. So, I like filling up space. That way, we’re marking the footprints of our lives.”
Computer science and math major Alex Lugo, who drew on the mural with his Honors College classmates, found a vivid example of interconnectedness in the murals.
“Everyone’s contributions came together to form part of the piece. It’s a really cool project that wasn’t done when we left that day. It’s going to be continued by people who we don’t know. It’s going to be the whole FIU community. You won’t know who worked on top of your work. The mural has a life of its own.”
Besides Lugo’s class, numerous fine arts classes and even an English composition class as well as individual students, faculty and administrators from all across campus participated.
More than 200 kindergarteners and first graders from Sweetwater Elementary School also visited. The field trip to the Frost included the children taking a tour of the museum and learning about several of the exhibits currently on display. The children also got to meet Goldberg, hear what it’s like to be an artist and work on a smaller mural to take back to their school.
“This is a great opportunity for these students,” says Betty Rodriguez, who teaches first grade at Sweetwater Elementary. “Many of them have one vision of art. They may think it’s paper, pencils and crayons. Now they’re learning about things like photography as art.”
This event is part of the Frost Art Museum’s STEAM Works initiative – a collaboration with the school to remove barriers to cultural experiences their students may face.
Frost Education Curator Miriam Machado, who led several of the tours with the children, says at least half of the students in her tours had never been to a museum before.
“This is what a university museum should be doing,” Machado says. “[Smithsonian scholar] Stephen Weil said it’s about museums going from something to being about somebody. This is what we are doing: being about our students and our community. The murals project makes me feel we are advocating for the importance of the arts.”
Frost Art Museum Director Jordana Pomeroy says the project exemplifies the goals of the museum. “The Frost Art Museum is a hub of creative activity for everyone in the FIU community. We will continue with these efforts to bring together our community in this intimate space for meditation, reflection and creativity.”
Goldberg will return to the Frost Art Museum, and work with students and community members Wednesday, March 22, through Friday, March 24. If you are interested in participating in the community mural project or bringing a group to work on it, email email@example.com.