By Megan O’Brien, deputy inside editor
After two weeks of painting, contemporary artist John Park has nearly completed a mural in the East Village lobby. expected to be finished on Sept. 25.
The work is the newest addition to the Public Art Initiative, a campaign President Joseph E. Aoun started two years ago. A team of faculty, led by Associate Director of Marketing Clare Horn, reviews and selects projects for his approval.
“[Aoun’s] been asking for more art and examples of creative expression,” Horn said. “We’re a very urban campus and a public campus, so it was just a natural fit.”
Park has adorned the residence hall lobby with the scene of a couple holding hands over the orange dusk as they hover over a city in the distance.
“It’s really cool. I like the vibrant colors,” Katherine Lynch, a second-year international business major, said.
The piece is titled “Reality Check II.”
“This is actually part of a theme I’ve been working on for a while,” Park said. “You could interpret it as falling or flying. I’m going to let the viewer come to their own conclusion.”
He completed a similar mural in El Segundo, Calif. this summer as part of another public arts initiative. The artwork depicts a man and woman suspended in the sky as birds surround them.
“When you walk into the building, it’s eye-opening and captures your glance,” Dorian Yavari, a senior international affairs major, said of the mural in East Village. “It makes you think of compassion.”
Park’s pop-surrealist style is a far cry from the classical education he earned in drawing, painting, sculpture and anatomy at the Rhode Island School of Design. He began experimenting with public art about three years ago.
“With museums and galleries, there are barriers to entry,” he said. “I think people become artists because they want to share their work. There is an attractive notion that it is open for enjoyment, for people to judge it, even for people to damage or deface it.”
Horn described the process of selecting Park as very organic.
“He’s a talented up-and-coming artist in [Los Angeles],” Horn said. “We’re looking for emerging artists. We want to be supporting that.”
Park joins Jef Aérosol, Daniel Anguilu and Miles “El Mac” MacGregor in the burgeoning list of artists Northeastern has welcomed to campus.
Horn said no specific theme encompasses the new installations, but the committee asks that some element of Northeastern is brought to each project.
“We want it to feel like the artists’ works, not a billboard for Northeastern,” she said. “With John, we knew the style was whimsical. We kind of threw the phrase at him, ‘explore the world, navigating the unknown.’”
Though Park’s mural is found in a residence hall, much of the Public Art Initiatives’ works can be found on the street. A woman with a bolt of lightning in her left hand and a paintbrush in her right looks over Northeastern’s Centennial Common in El Mac’s “Ars et Scientia.” On Huntington Avenue, an image shows a man sporting a Northeastern shirt hanging from a beam in one of Jef Aérosol’s untitled works.
“We’ve been highly focused on street art and that’s been very exciting,” Horn said. “We’re hopefully going to do more three-dimensional work.”
Future projects for the Public Art Initiative include three more murals, a possible sculpture project and a continuation of Art Lift, which showcases faculty and student work on elevators around campus. Northeastern will install prints of Ekua Holmes’, one of the mural artists, next week.
“I like the creativity,” Lynch said of Northeastern’s artistic efforts. “It makes [campus] feel like a welcoming place.”
Photo courtesy Michael Modoono, Northeastern University