Many students had a hand in creating a new mural for UCI's Cross-Cultural Center. The 12-by-18-foot collaborative artwork will be officially unveiled Sept. 22, during UCI Welcome Week.

Those visiting UC Irvine’s Cross-Cultural Center this summer might have thought they’d taken a wrong turn on Ring Mall and ended up in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts costume shop.

A cascade of clothing and fabric swatches covered the center’s Ring Room floor, along with panels to which scraps of material had been affixed. Buckets of paint and brushes lined the walls. A rasterized image of the world — glued upside down on additional panels — stood in the middle.

The facility itself was turned upside down for about six months as people dropped by to work on a new mural — hewn of cloth, paint, paper and other elements — now hanging in the lobby outside the CCC’s Dr. White Conference Room. It will be officially unveiled Thursday, Sept. 22, during UCI Welcome Week.

In keeping with its inclusive philosophy, the center invited all students, staff, faculty and alumni to help create the 12-by-18-foot mural.

“The campus community has made a contemporary, lasting piece of art that expresses what the Cross-Cultural Center has been and continues to be for UCI,” says CCC director Kevin Huie.

The mural consists of 12 panels with four components: the reversed map; a fabric collage; inspirational quotes submitted by participants; and an abstract, mixed-media figure symbolizing a student who comes to the CCC and “considers it home,” according to Edwina Dai ’10.

The center’s resource coordinator, she helped lead the project with Yaron Hakim, who’s pursuing an M.F.A. in studio art. “The students wanted to bring to life a work of art representative of them,” Dai says.

About 25 students and staff toiled regularly on the piece, while many others in the campus community offered input on the design or popped by occasionally to staple cloth onto the canvas or dab paint on the figure — whatever inspired them.

Fabrics came from UCI’s costume shop or students’ own closets. A few even donated their baby clothes.

“The fabrics are a metaphor for the intertwining of people that occurs at the Cross-Cultural Center. It’s a place where diversity can happen,” says Stephanie Li ’11, who began working on the mural during the winter quarter while earning bachelor’s degrees in studio art and art history. “The center gives people the opportunity to become aware of others’ culture.”

It was Li who conceived of a figure representing a student discovering his or her identity and learning about diversity at the CCC.

“The idea was to deconstruct the different cultures to make the figure abstract, so you don’t know its race, nationality or gender,” she says. “I wanted to express the concept of multiculturalism.”

The map is intended to encourage people to look at the world from a fresh perspective, Dai says: “It brings to question your surroundings. There’s no ‘right way’ — just what has been historically depicted.”

Making murals has long been a center tradition, she notes. The first was designed and painted by students in 1976 under the direction of Manuel Hernandez, a visiting lecturer in studio art, and features prominent civil rights leaders.

The second, conceived by renowned muralist Judy Baca and executed by UCI students as a class project, was installed in 1993 and depicts the suffering of Asian/Vietnamese and Latino/Central American refugees.

As for the new mural, Dai says: “We’ve had everyone from drama majors to graduate students in sociology work on it. Now when they come back to the center, they’ll be able to see what they created. The mural allowed students to express themselves in a meaningful way that will be remembered.”

 

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