Mural Art class beautifies Laney campus
Celebrated muralist Ray Patlán teaches art as a social movement
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 21:11
The Laney Student Center houses a mural over the Café depicting the culinary arts, with a mural celebrating the Laney Eagles to each side.
There is a mural featuring a media motif in the Theater, a music-themed mural in G-189, and a mural spelling out the word “dance” using the bodies of dancers, outside the Dance Department.
There are also a number of murals in the Tower building, which is under renovation. Since the year 2000, the students of Ray Patlán’s Introduction to Mural Art class have been creating these murals throughout the Laney campus, each featuring themes of the area in which they are located.
Patlán has been creating murals since 1966 and in 1984 was instrumental in organizing the famous Balmy Alley mural project in the Mission district, where 36 artists made 25 murals on the theme of peace in Central America.
He has been teaching and lecturing since 1970 at colleges and universities worldwide, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and California College of the Arts.
His current class at Laney is working on a mural in the G building that features elements of the various math and technology classes that are connected by the stairwell, from nuts and bolts to a space shuttle.
Melanie Cervantes is one of the students working on the mural. Her husband, Student Trustee Brian Cervantes, scouted locations he thought were good for murals, and worked with Patlán to present the locations to Dean Marco Menendez and school admistrators.
“Brian talked to Ray four years ago,” said Melanie Cervantes. “He thought the murals gave a little life to the school. It was between Brian and Ray talking to the administrators, trying to beautify the school.”
The class focuses on muralism as a social movement, and lectures cover influences from cave paintings to graffiti, and also the Mexican mural movement. Patlán explains, “Many great monuments of art have been created in groups throughout history—the pyramids, Incan artifacts.”
Every semester the class of 25-30 students splits into five to six teams. Each team takes a concept of the mural and comes up with drawings, and the class chooses the strongest elements for the mural. This time around, the teams settled on their own drawings and each took a floor of the stairwell to work on.
According to Patlán, the class usually has few experienced artists. “There’s a term—‘creative malady’—that is used to describe artists,” said Patlán. “The idea is people who are ‘disabled’ are more creative.”
However, his class emphasizes how the creation of murals can foster community among artists. The work is collaborative and students learn from each other, critiquing and helping one another. “The students work really well together,” said Patlán. “They’ve been (mistakenly) taught individualism is a part of art. It’s B.S.!”
There is one area on campus that surprisingly does not have any murals, despite plenty of free wall space: the Arts Building. Patlán is frequently asked why there aren’t any murals there, and has been trying to convince the faculty and the dean, so far to no avail. “I can’t believe we’ve had such a hard time getting murals (there),” said Patlán.