Arts and Culture

A lasting impression

Mural reflects Center for Global Engagement's new focus


SUMMARY: A group of 17 international students, JMU study abroad alumni, Harrisonburg High School students and Valley Scholars recently came together to paint a mural outside the Center for Global Engagement's new offices in Madison Hall.

By Renée Rocco

The Center for Global Engagement has a new name, a new focus and now a new mural outside its new home in Madison Hall.

A group of 17 international students, JMU study abroad alumni, Harrisonburg High School students and Valley Scholars recently came together to paint the mural, which showcases aspects of cultures from around the world, from monuments to landscapes to the garments people are wearing.

CGE student mural-full

At a time when many people and countries are divided, the mural focuses on the themes of unity and togetherness.

"For me, it is about using the physical space to make a statement and to represent what is going on in the world right now," said Mariafé Panizo, a doctoral student in clinical and school psychology from Peru.

The project was led by Claudia Bernardi, an internationally known artist whose work often reflects the struggle for human rights and social justice.

CGE student mural-1

Bernardi, who has supervised many murals around the world, takes a different approach than most artists: she never picks up a brush. Speaking about her work in other places and of the School of Art she started in Perquin, El Salvador, Bernardi said, "I am the founder, but it is not a Bernardi project. It would never work if it was a one-person idea."

With that approach as the foundation for the CGE project, Bernardi let the students decide what the mural would be, what it would represent and what they wanted it to contain. The focus on "we" instead of "I" was a big theme throughout the process.

"Something I really like about JMU is the diversity and how many different people we have that come to this university and do so many different things," said Katie Mills, a junior from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. "It encompasses all of the different people who are here coming together to make this mural."

CGE student mural-2

The project unfolded over two weekends in September. As it was wrapping up, students had time to reflect on their work.

"There were so many different ideas, and we were able to work them all out together," said senior Andrianna Boykin of Reston, Virginia. "It's a whirlwind sort of feeling, and seeing it all come together has been so amazing."

CGE student mural-5

Keren Chen, a senior from Zhanjiang, China, appreciates that JMU is open and welcoming to international students. "The community just gave me a sense of friendliness. The overall experience here (working on the mural) has given me a chance to meet more people and has been a highlight of my time here at JMU."

CGE student mural-4

CGE Executive Director Lee Sternberger said the center's new global focus was behind the name change from the Office of International Programs to the Center for Global Engagement.

"We have embraced 'global' in its broadest and most creative sense, to mean both encompassing and international," Sternberger said. "And we have underscored our belief that we can achieve 'internationalization' both at home and abroad. We see our communities as interconnected and interdependent, neither international nor domestic—but global."

CGE student mural-7

To view the completed mural, stop by CGE's new offices on the second floor of Madison Hall.

Published: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018

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