Northeastern University is renowned for its engineering studies and research development as demonstrated through the opening of the new state-of-the-art interdisciplinary science and engineering complex during fall semester 2017. However, the community’s artistic energy has emerged within the campus.
President Aoun launched the public art initiative in 2014 striving to showcase Northeastern’s creative side by treating the campus as a canvas. This initiative has introduced work by teachers, students, alumni, as well as famous artists and overall a sense of unity.
The campus now is a canvas to about 15 different artworks “proving that art need not be contained by four walls”, according to Northeastern’s Center for the Art. To some students it is also a way of validation that their studies and ideas are an integral part of the university’s overall community as part of the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD).
“I love looking at the mural in Centennial or the stencils by Jeff Aérosol around campus because it feels like a game trying to find them all,” said Hope Luria, a graphic design student in CAMD. “It is cool to have art not only by famous artists like [Shepard] Fairey and El Mac but also by students and teachers. It makes art feel important on campus by adding more life and color.”
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Luria is a designer for Scout, Northeastern’s student-led design studio. Scout began as a simple organization but through their passion for design it has become a professional community eager to spread the word about the importance of design.
“This semester we have had 30 lectures and 10 workshops open to the public to try to emphasis the importance of design thinking in all professions,” said Luria, who explains the entrepreneurial spirit within the organization.
“We’re coming out of this semester with five real life projects for clients. Our clients can be seeking a wide variety of things from branding to mobile app design, website design and packaging. We’re connected through Idea, which is the business venture program on campus so we only take on clients like Northeastern or students and grad students who’ve gone through Idea,” said Luria.
As part of a team of five other people, Luria designed a logo in partnership with Open Trail Technology, a business created by two Northeastern grad students through Idea.
“I am getting a lot of valuable experience from Scout than I ever have had from the design program and now there are classes that are basically modeled after the Scout business model because it has shown to be so successful,” said Luria. “It is amazing to think that my design is being used for real businesses’ logo.”
Scout is not the only design driven project on campus. Nathan Felde, director of the art and design program at CAMD, along with fellow professors at Northeastern University’s CAMD, Dietmar Offenhuber and Alessandra Renzi, collaborated with Snell Library to archive posters from the Women’s March in Jan. for historic and design purposes.
“It came out as a spontaneous realization from the three of us as we were walking back from the march that evening. We were attracted to the way the posters were laid on the ground almost deliberately in tribute,” said Felde. “We were fascinated by the variety of ideas and range of graphical material and sizes. This handcrafted personal expression was instigated by politics and in the end other than the officially commissioned posters printed, no two posters were alike.”
That same night Felde, Offenhuber and Renzi, as well as intrigued volunteers, collected all the discarded posters they could find and loaded them into a van rented through Zip Car. Around 11 pm, Felde decided there was a need for immediate action and made two calls: one to a storage unit in the South End and the other to Patrick Yott, the associate dean of libraries for digital strategies and services at Snell Library.
“He was immediately interested in helping archive the posters as part of Boston’s history. It made sense because it was a major Boston event,” said Felde. “We photographed and labeled about 6,000 posters in total for the digital archive and we made it open to the public to help add data for the records about each poster.”
Currently the posters are being safely preserved in boxes in a storage unit, with interest for a potentional exhibition in 2018 by a curator in NYC, as well as the possibility for a commerative book.
“We actually received a suggestion via Twitter from comedian Nick Offerman as celebrity endorsement that it would make for a ‘chill coffee table book'”, said Felde. “We would hope for it to be exhibited locally and then some posters will be chosen to stay at Northeastern.”
Art can act as a symbol for historical events as with the posters or as a symbol for unity as demonstrated by a mural on campus on the Latino Student Cultural Center building. Overall, art can serve as an outlet for self-expression.
An in depth video story explaining the idea and production behind Northeastern’s newest public art.
Inside Ryder Hall a colorful mural livens up the main entrance, enfolding the walls around Subway where students rush to their next classes or grab a quick bite to eat during their breaks. This mural, produced by Sophia Ainslie, a professor of art at Northeastern, combines X-ray images of her mother’s abdomen in collage with expressionist lines.
“It came about as a commission from my piece at my gallery. The content comes from a single X-ray of my mother’s abdomen and the colored shapes are specific to her last X-ray from when she had cancer,” said Ainslie, as she explained the production of the mural in collaboration with her students.
“The colored shapes are her organs and the spaces between that I would project in my studio and map out. The mark making comes from my translation of landscape. I invited students to work with me to pain it on the wall as an opportunity to paint raw on a wall,” said Ainslie.
While Ainslie commends the work the initiative has produced, she feels it is essential to continue to add more public art.
“It makes art more accessible for the general public. Not everybody goes to museums of galleries and its important to reach different types of audiences,” said Ainslie. “Getting everybody to react and respond to something is always good as it makes for a richer culture and brings people together. It gives us a connection to talk.”