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Alexander Golob stood on a ladder early Friday afternoon brushing canary-colored paint onto an unlikely canvas: the lower wall of the College of Fine Arts parking lot. On either side of him, blocks of blue, orange, and violet paint floated on a white background, waiting to be conjoined in a giant mural that will eventually depict scenes from around BU and Brookline.
Golob (CFA’16, CAS’16) developed a mock-up of the mural in a painting class, pitched it to CFA Dean Benjamin Juárez and the BU Arts Initiative, and—thanks to joint funding from the two—started painting a couple of weekends ago. He hopes to complete the project by the end of May.
Sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the initiative “ensures that the arts are fundamental to the BU student experience inside and outside of the classroom,” says Jean Morrison, University provost. It offers arts integration grants of up to $500 to faculty to employ the arts in non–arts-related courses and special projects grants of up to $2,000 to faculty, staff, or students interested in directly engaging students in the arts. Arts integration grants are available on a rolling basis.
Golob heard about the Arts Initiative special project grants while taking a site-specific art class last semester with Hugh O’Donnell, a CFA professor of painting. Golob thought his mural—a collage of stained glass–style images that blends sites like Marsh Chapel, the MBTA Green Line, Bay State Road brownstones, and Brookline parks—would be a perfect fit. He took his proposal to O’Donnell, who coached him through the grant application process.
“We’re trying to transcend the academic goal, not just through a proposal,” says O’Donnell, “but to get students a real project so they actually get a bite of the cherry by doing a professional job.”
Both CFA and BU Arts Initiative immediately approved Golob’s proposal and split the $2,800 bill down the middle. Members of the BU Arts Council, a committee of faculty, staff, and students that works with the Arts Initiative, loved the mural’s brilliant colors and low cost, and they also loved Golob’s plan to recruit painters via Facebook and from among passersby. “It’s simple, BU-focused, and it really is a hideously ugly wall, so it’s brightening up a nice area,” says Ty Furman, the initiative’s managing director.
Still, moving the project from idea to reality was a challenge. Golob worked with Facilities Management & Planning to borrow scaffolding and ladders, Parking & Transportation Services to request that commuters not park in the spaces abutting the lower wall at certain times and days, and Government & Community Affairs, the office that would request permission for the project from Boston’s Redevelopment Authority. Persistence paid off, and he got a green light from all three.
Golob “wasn’t alone in thinking that we needed, the community wanted, something that would express that 855 Commonwealth Avenue is a space devoted to the arts,” says Juárez. “In fulfilling this need he was able to bring the collaboration and integration of other students. He gave them a sense of belonging to this community, that their work, their participation also allows them to have an influence and make a difference in the landscape of what our college looks like.”
“It’s one of the major walls facing people walking toward CFA,” says Golob, “and it does not put out a good image. It’s a prime location to do a large project that would really help to revitalize the space.”
Last Friday, Golob directed volunteers who showed up mid-afternoon to paint. They grabbed mural maps, each one covered in a grid corresponding with a section of wall. The freshman helped less experienced artists mix their paint before hopping back on his ladder.
Maria Currie (CFA’16) was among the volunteers. She studies trumpet performance, but welcomed a chance to revisit her high school painting days. “It’s set up in a way that you don’t need to know what you’re doing,” she says. “You just paint in the lines.”
Staci Hunter says she’s already logged seven hours of painting since the project began in late April. “It’s something that’s going to last for many years,” says Hunter (SAR’15), who sits on the BU Arts Initiative advisory board, “and I can say that when I was a BU student, I was part of this.”