Worth the Wait: Student Health Services Receives New Student- And Alumni-Created Art Mural

By Tom McLaughlin

Visitors to the Student Health Services office at Rutgers University–Camden will have a “brighter” and perhaps more cheerful wait, thanks to a new student- and alumni-created art mural that now adorns the walls.

Throughout the summer, Emily Ramos, a graphic design major; Logan Fleig, a digital studies major; and Jacob Foster, a 2017 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art, created the stunning, mixed-media mural.

The 12-by-8-foot piece features an array of Camden and campus landmarks, along with abstract representations of the human heart and brain to illustrate physical and psychological services provided by the office.

Pictured (left to right) is Emily Ramos, Logan Fleig, Jacob Foster, and Margery Amdur

“I am incredibly thankful to these young artists,” says Nueza Maria Serra, director of Health Services at Rutgers–Camden. “Other than a TV blaring, the waiting room has always been boring and plain. Now visitors have something attractive, intriguing, and distracting to look at while they wait.”

Under the direction of Margery Amdur, an associate professor of fine arts at Rutgers–Camden, the artists began the process by researching the history and evolution of murals. They then looked at contemporary examples that were created as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program.

Inspired by mural artists Ben Volta and David Guinn, as well as contemporary artists such as Julie Mehretu and Philadelphia artist Rebecca Rutstien, the students layered images utilizing digital technologies such as Adobe PhotoShop.

With additional coaching from Rutgers–Camden art lecturers Bruce Garrity and Stass Shpanin, they also worked with a variety of paint application methods, including spray paint, stencils, washes, drawing, collage, and the painted line.

“Integrating these approaches gave visual interest to the mural beyond the typical ‘paint by number’ approach,” says Foster.

At Amdur’s suggestion, the students initially experimented on another piece – “similar to a dress rehearsal” – which the Rutgers–Camden associate professor says allowed them to create without the pressure of thinking that everything needed to be perfect.

“They had the courage to trust themselves as a team and to know that if they made what they called a ‘mistake,’ then it was only paint and would become part of the history of the project,” says Amdur, a world-renowned mixed-media artist whose work is on permanent display at the U.S. Embassy in Suriname.

In featuring recognizable buildings from around campus and the surrounding neighborhood, the students created a “scavenger hunt of landmarks,” which they hoped would engage viewers who otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to spend time looking at the mural.

Moreover, notes Foster, they included a heart and brain to represent the physical and psychological services they provide, which can also be interpreted as the struggle between logic and passion.

“The images of a heart and a brain, in a dreamlike landscape of our neighborhood, recalls the civic responsibility that we have to Camden,” says Foster. “We are to take what we learn from our studies, and our love for this city and use it to help improve the lives of the people who live here.”

As Fleig sees it, the landmarks depicted throughout the mural invoke a sense of community at and around Rutgers–Camden.

“From the Writers House to the Athletic and Fitness Center at Rutgers–Camden – and anywhere else you look – there are areas where people come together to form a community,” he says.

For Ramos, a lifelong Camden resident, the mural highlights familiar images that she has seen and appreciated all her life – and which have now taken on new meaning.

“When I see the City Hall tower, I know that’s City Hall, and when I see Campbell’s Field, I remember all of the Riversharks games that I saw when I was a kid,” she says. “It’s awesome to connect those things from my childhood with my experiences now.”

Ramos adds that she hopes students simply have a fun time looking at the mural.

“It is colorful,” she says, “and you can’t stop searching and finding new things.”

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