When people think of St. Mary’s College there are always some iconic ideas that come to mind such as the river or the path, as well as the sense of community we try to foster here. Associate Professor of Art Carrie Patterson is bringing the St. Mary’s way to life through her (and her students’) mural project on the fences around the demolished Anne Arundel academic building. The project is centered on the phrase “We are St. Mary’s,” which was the slogan used by students who were present at the meeting of the Board of Trustees over the summer following the admissions crisis.
Patterson has experience with murals at SMCM and teaches a class titled “Art for Educators and Community Activists,” which focuses on community projects that bring art to public places. This year’s class consists of 14 students who regularly take field trips to places like Newark, New Jersey to see the effects of public art and education through art. The mural project at Anne Arundel started when the Office of Planning and Facilities contacted Patterson about doing it around the construction area.
In the past, Patterson has created murals around Goodpaster Hall and Glendening Hall. In 2005, she had her art classes decorate a plywood wall erected in front of Goodpaster on which were written answers from a poll asking students to use only nouns to describe what St. Mary’s meant to them. However, it was through this project that Patterson learned that communication about public art and the community’s access to it is vastly important. Non-art students were dissatisfied in how the wall was controlled and how not everyone could participate, and Patterson took this knowledge into account when developing the concept of the Anne Arundel mural.
This year, Patterson set up three days, Oct. 24, 26, and 27, when students could express how they feel about the school through the mural. Senior art student Hannah Sturm said that “the project is a great way for me to explore public and interactive art,” and that it “is just another way for me to engage in the community and gain experience.” The purpose behind the mural is to engage the community and use the ideas of the staff, students and faculty to create something that will embody what SMCM is and means to the those who live, study, and work here.
Patterson believes that “mural projects can create a dialogue for people to engage in critical thinking and to interact with history and culture.” St. Mary’s College has a history of trying to incorporate the community into its academics and values public service; this is being continued through Patterson’s class.