Permission to paint on the wall

Painting on a finished wall is typically discouraged. But for College of Arts, Media and Design lecturer Sophia Ainslie and a group of her students who are using paint to enhance one popular campus space, it’s highly encouraged.

Ainslie, a painter represented by Gallery Naga, was commissioned to create the newest installment in Northeastern’s Public Art Initiative—a mural in the lobby of Ryder Hall titled “In Person.”

Ainslie planned on incorporating 16 colors into the mural, which, she said, would help represent the relationship between body and landscape, a theme the artist has explored in the past.

To help her paint the mural, she recruited four students from her 2D Foundation course as well as a student from China studying at her studio. Work began on Thursday and wraps up this week.

“There is something naughty about being able to paint on the wall,” Ainslie said. “A lot of people have already come up to me and said they enjoyed watching the process. It can be very meditative to watch paint dry.”

Ryder Hall Mural

Sophia Ainslie, a lecturer in the College of Arts, Media and Design, works on her mural “In Person” on a wall in the Ryder Hall lobby. Photo by Matthew Modoono

Ainslie spent about three weeks creating a design for the mural, which will stay up indefinitely. At one point she completely changed her plans after seeing the 11-feet-by-9-feet workspace. She drew a sketch of the design to serve as a guide, but expected to make some changes as the work progressed.

“It’s about freedom,” Ainslie noted. “I’ve already made some changes with some of the colors and lines. The sketch does not set the design in stone. But it does give me an opportunity to just paint and have more of a bodily experience than a conceptual one.”

Her student helpers were eager to contribute. Heather Jensen, AMD’17, noted that she was new to painting but was very excited when Ainslie asked her to help. “I was instantly into it,” Jensen said. “I thought it would be fun to be able to paint on such a large scale.”

Rebecca Porter, AMD’18, didn’t have to think twice about taking part, saying that “It’s fun to paint on walls, especially in a building I spend so much time in.”

Ryder Hall Mural

Heather Jensen, AMD’17, works on “In Person” a mural in the Ryder Hall lobby and latest installment to Northeastern’s Public Art Initiative. Photo by Matthew Modoono

The Public Art Initiative aims to provide Northeastern students, faculty, alumni, and artists from around the world with “canvases” throughout campus to display their works for the entire Northeastern community to experience. Other works in the initiative include Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” series on Forsyth Street and Daniel Anguilu’s mural on the retaining wall of the MBTA pedestrian bridge.

Ainslie noted that showcasing art in public spaces gives people who would not normally visit a gallery the opportunity to experience art. “I want to thank President Aoun and the Public Art Initiative for inviting me to participate in this program and install a permanent site-specific work on campus,” Ainslie said.