The Black Lives Matter fresco unveiled



SUNY Cortland officially recognized the work of three students whose graphic design panels depict themes from the Black Lives Matter movement during an afternoon public unveiling ceremony on May 5 in the newly renovated Moffett Center Forum.

The installation, which resulted from a semester-long “call for student artists” to design a mural reflecting the movement as well as diversity-related topics, was developed by the Office of Equity and institutional inclusion in partnership with the Dowd Gallery, the Art and Art History Department and the Black Lives Matter Mural Committee.

Present were the three student artists, from left to right, Shannon Delaney, Katherine Kressner and Vanessa Leon Basurto.

“The coordination of the creation of the mural was overseen by a committee of campus professionals and students, who eagerly awaited this beautiful work of art to be installed on campus,” said Cyrenius Weagba Fitzjohn ’19 , Deputy Chief Diversity Officer of SUNY Cortland. and inclusion officer, before the ceremony. More history and context of the project process was shared at the unveiling.

Students whose works were chosen for the Black Lives Matter panel series were on hand for the event. They are: Katherine Kressner, with two pieces represented in the installation; and Vanessa Leon Basurto and Shannon Delaney, with one work each.

The three graphic design and digital media majors were selected as project artists in December following a competition that drew 21 online submissions during the fall semester. A bold four-panel BLM mural, created by the students to reflect the national struggle against racial and social injustice, was mounted in the newly renovated Moffett Center Forum during the spring semester.

A previous exhibition of selected entries in the competition, titled “Black Lives Matter Mural Submission Exhibition,” was on display from February 28 to April 1 at the Old Main Colloquium. The winning illustrators were also honored at the time with a reception.

The installation is linked to recent national history.

Tim Bennett ’07, the project’s alumni sponsor, spoke at the event.

“In 2013, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi started the #BlackLivesMatter movement in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder case,” said Fitzjohn, who made remarks at the unveiling. .

Following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, the movement gained global recognition and momentum as the founders worked to affirm the lives of all black, queer and trans people, people with disabilities, people without -papers, people with backgrounds, women and all lives along the gender spectrum, Fitzjohn noted, citing Black Lives Matter Literature.

Tim Bennett ’07, a local business owner, entrepreneur, and SUNY Cortland Alumni Association board member who personally suggested and funded the campus facility project and worked with the faculty partnership, administrators and students to move it forward, remarked at the ceremony.

Bennett supports many local civic initiatives and funded a Black Lives Matter street graphic in downtown Cortland as the nation battled racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd. He approached SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum to do something depicting the same concept on campus.

The BLM mural is displayed in the Moffett Center Forum.

Lorraine Lopez-Janove, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, created the BLM Mural Committee, which includes Bennett; Gia Greenidge, founder and current president of the NAACP chapter of SUNY Cortland; Taylor Hunter, president of the Student Government Association (SGA); Tatum Pittman, SGA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator; Shaneya Simmelkjaer ’21, SUNY Cortland graduate, former NAACP campus president; Brianna Soogrim, the current vice president of the Black Student Union; Fitzjohn; Jaroslava Prihodova, director of the Dowd Gallery; Martine Barnaby, professor of graphic design, art and art history department; Zach Newswanger, associate vice president for facilities management; and Seth Asumah, SUNY Professor Emeritus and Chair of the Department of African Studies.

Images courtesy of Francesca Frasco


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