Student engagement project leads to evolutionary mural

By Maegan White

Elm Staff Writer

The Goose Nest, located on the bottom floor of Hodson Hall, is being redecorated with a mural created and designed by students and painted by members of the Washington College community.

In January of 2022, junior Megan Somers and sophomore Morgan Carlson attended the Leadership Summit for Presidential Fellows. At the conference, the fellows were broken up into groups and tasked with creating a plan to increase student participation and engagement on campus.

“We were asked to pitch an idea to President [Dr. Mike Sosulski] that would boost student engagement,” Somers said. “We realized there was a lack of art on campus. We wanted more art and because our school is so environmentally focused, we wanted an environmental mural.”

After months of trying to coordinate the mural painting, Somers and Carlson were connected with Director of Student Engagement Antoine Jordan ‘12 and Assistant Dean for Student Engagement and Success Tricia Biles, who joined forces to complete the mural on campus.

The College hired Creative Engagement Facilitator and Artist Kayti Didriksen, who moved to Chestertown for an in-house residency with the Kent Cultural Alliance, to help lead and coordinate the mural painting with the students.

Didriksen, Carlson, Somers, and Didriksen’s assistant senior Kaitlyn Tourin met at the beginning of the semester to talk about their vision for the mural. Tourin and Didriksen then sketched the design for the mural together with the approval of Somers, Carlson, and Biles. 

Tourin shared that the mural was meant to depict a forest succession. Since a majority of her art is nature-focused, the Art History Club reached out to her to get her involved in the planning of the mural. 

“I mainly do artwork that has to do with nature so this project was right up my alley,” Tourin said. “I have never done something to this scale so it is a challenge to take up this whole room…and see how we can make this really big space come to life.”

Tourin and Didriksen said that the design of the mural will cover the entire Nest and the succession will occur from left to right. 

The first phase of the mural project was painting the first wall with rocks and lichen. 

“That is the foundation of life – moss and lichen take over,” Tourin said. “From there, everything else begins to grow. You start with tall grasses, then from there you will grow flowers, tall plants, smaller trees, then you get your larger oaks trees and maple trees.”

In an email sent Thursday, Oct. 20, the Office of Student Engagement encouraged students, faculty, and staff to participate in the painting of the mural. 

The email also announced themed days that included student leaders, affinity groups, Greek life, athletics, and more. While students could attend any day, particular groups were encouraged to attend on their organization’s day. 

According to Tourin, the theme for the mural was “finding your roots at Washington College.” She said that each student and staff that participated could leave their impact at the college through this mural.

According to Didriksen, she loved getting students involved in the project. She would direct and assist any student, faculty or staff that came to paint the mural but in the end, it was the students and staff that did all the work with Didriksen helping to guide them.

“I like to facilitate creativity in people who think they do not have creative expertise or knowledge which isn’t true, everyone has it,” Didriksen said. “Most people do not push their creativity far enough and they stop too early because they don’t know how to push through to the other side. It makes me happy to facilitate a situation where someone can push through to the other side and take pride in something that they have made.”

On Friday, Oct. 28, the first wall of the mural was completed. The next stages of the mural painting are still being planned and will be announced to students later in the semester. All future stages will continue to be participation driven.

Photo by Miranda Parrish

Photo Caption: Staff and students from different campus organizations contributed to the first section of the mural.

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