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Holmes Hall mural brings life to an outdated building

A+new+mural+is+in+progress+on+the+first+floor+of+Holmes+Hall%2C+which+houses+the+School+of+Journalism.
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Holmes Hall mural brings life to an outdated building

A new mural is in progress on the first floor of Holmes Hall, which houses the School of Journalism.

A new mural is in progress on the first floor of Holmes Hall, which houses the School of Journalism.

Riley Robinson

A new mural is in progress on the first floor of Holmes Hall, which houses the School of Journalism.

Riley Robinson

Riley Robinson

A new mural is in progress on the first floor of Holmes Hall, which houses the School of Journalism.

Lucy Hoffman, news correspondent

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From murals on the sides of buildings to sculptures on display, Northeastern has incorporated expression and art into many dimensions of campus. Each piece of artwork has a different story to tell — and the same goes for the new mural going up on the first floor of Holmes Hall, which houses the School of Journalism.

The mural is made up of symbols that highlight the importance of reporting and journalism in today’s polarized political climate, said Fernanda Hurtado Ortiz, a fifth-year journalism major and one of the artists working on the project.

“A camera for photojournalism, a video camera and sound system for documentary and video reporting, a microphone for podcast and radio” — each of these, Hurtado Ortiz said, shows the significance of “multimedia within journalism.” The mural also includes elements to symbolize freedom of expression and the First Amendment. Each piece of the design comes together to provide a visual representation of the integral role of journalism in society.

The Holmes Hall mural also has particular importance due to its location, as the setup of the building often causes the journalism school to get lost within campus, Hurtado Ortiz said. The mural will celebrate the importance of journalism and help bring attention to the vital work going on in Holmes every day.

“Within [Holmes Hall], there is great work being done that isn’t really as publicized as work in buildings like ISEC,” Hurtado Ortiz said.

The Holmes Hall mural started as an idea in the summer of 2018. Mike Beaudet, a professor of journalism at Northeastern — also known, according to him, as the “Picasso of the department” or the “mural coordinator” — said he was looking around Holmes and noticed how unattractive it was. He focused particularly on a set of dated trophy cases that hung on a wall in the hallway and had the idea to replace them with a mural. Little did he know how long and complicated the process would become.

Beaudet first contacted Sophia Ainslie, an associate teaching professor of art at Northeastern who does murals and has work on display on campus and throughout Boston. Ainslie then recruited students to work with her on the project.

The design for the mural underwent many changes. The initial plan included an assortment of journalism-related words, such as “investigative” and “data,” but that design was shot down by the university because it had too much branding, Beaudet said.

The artists went back to the drawing board and took the words out, incorporating more visual representations of journalism. The idea was to show all the ways that journalism functions in daily life while also keeping a “Boston vibe.” This meant keeping the focus on people actively doing journalism, including “reporters in the field, the Hancock building and the State House,” Beaudet said. He and the designers aimed to infuse journalism with important Boston landmarks, resulting in a mural that seamlessly blends the two.

The process of actually painting didn’t turn out to be much simpler than getting the approvals. Murals are typically painted with the aid of a projector to help artists know exactly where to paint what — but the Holmes hallway was too narrow for that.

To solve this problem, the artists had to first grid and sketch the entire space before painting could even begin. After that, Hurtado Ortiz said the painting process was “lots of fun.”

“Now all that is missing [are] final layers and detailing,” Hurtado Ortiz said. “There are a lot of important aspects to this mural that need to be given special attention to, even if they are basic graphics and lines.”

Beaudet felt that the process, though long, has been extremely successful. The goal was to give Holmes Hall a “funky feel,” and the mural is just one step in renovating the older building, a process which will also include redoing the labs and creating a lounge. Beaudet likes that the mural brings energy to the hall.

“[The mural is] a good way to showcase the incredible things the students are doing and make it a space where the students want to be,” Beaudet said.

As for the artists, the project has been fulfilling in different ways.

“Being a journalism student and graduating this year, I thought this would be a great way to merge all my interests and leave a lasting mark on campus and in my own department,” Hurtado Ortiz said.

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