Black students at Science and Engineering Hill felt unsafe and unwelcome after a series of vandalisms at the Sinsheimer Institute building lasting from 2020 to 2021. As one step in his healing process, a new mural by artist Paul Lewin brightens Sinsheimer’s first-floor entrance to his lab.
Juliana Nzongo, a graduate student in microbiology and environmental toxicology who served as student representative for the mural committee, said the reaction to the mural was very positive. “Some people go there every week or every morning just to see it. Many people say they get a sense of peace when they enter the building,” she said.
The students met with Lewin twice before deciding that he was the right artist to paint the mural. “It felt right to go with Paul Lewin. I felt he would represent Black people in a way that could help Black students in science feel a sense of belonging. Hill,” Nzongo said. said.
Appearing on the cover of science fiction author Octavia Butler’s novel, Lewin’s art is inspired by Afro-Caribbean and African folklore, nature, science fiction and Afrofuturism. The murals depict a variety of images related to science and nature, including motifs that appear in many of Lewin’s paintings.
“My art and life have always been inspired by science,” said Lewin. “The murals have central figures, ancient ancestral spirits performing rituals that celebrate the interconnectedness of all life on Earth.”
Born in Jamaica, Lewin has been based in Auckland for many years and now lives in Miami. He was one of several potential artists suggested to the commission by John Jota Leaños, a professor of film and digital media who met Lewin in San Francisco.
“When John first contacted me about the mural in March of this year, I was really blown away by the backstory,” Lewin said. “Hearing students first-hand has been very impressive to me. From ancient African and other Indigenous communities to current and future Black students at UC Santa Cruz, generations of science I wanted to create an image that strongly represented black people in
Christina Ravello, professor of marine sciences and associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the physical and biological sciences department, said the mural was designed to help create a more supportive environment for students of color. He said it was just one step in the department’s efforts.
“Murals need to be seen not as a sign that we are where we want to be, but as part of the transformation process we are working on,” she said. Of all the vandalism and other incidents that were there, it was very stressful.It was a bad time.”
It started in June 2020 when campus buildings were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and researchers conducting pressing research or important experiments were allowed to use Sinsheimer’s laboratory, but access to the building was restricted. Students felt threatened when the “Black Lives Matter” posters in the Sinsheimer elevator were defaced or torn down.
“Someone who had access said, ‘You shouldn’t be here,’ which made many students feel uneasy,” Nzongo said. “One of my best friends girlfriend had to come in late at night to do some time points for her experiments. We had to keep in touch.”
The campus has since installed additional security cameras, including in the elevators. Ravelo also said that more and more science departments are holding or planning anti-racism training programs for faculty.
Nonetheless, Nzongo said students felt angry and frustrated by what they felt was a slow response to the incident by the campus police and administration. I had a list of things I needed,” Nzongo said. “Murals could get money and support right away, but he’s one of them.”
The Mural Committee sought artists to create murals that “captured UCSC’s vision of scientific excellence, innovation, and creativity. It can only be achieved in an environment that approaches humility and collaboration.Respect for each other.”
Nzongo said he recently brought a group of high school students who were on campus for the COSMOS program to see the murals.
“They liked it and wanted to take pictures in front of it,” she said. what does that mean for them? ”