IGC Mural

By Rye Carlson

Markim Hall, you know, that fancy building next to Kagin with the temple-like copper façade – also known as the Institute for Global Citizenship? It’s about to become a bit more inviting for students. In line with its title, and perhaps tempering its cool, metallic exterior, the third floor will soon be home to a mural depicting global citizenship. It’s being painted by one of the Twin Cities’ premier visual artists and social activists – Ta-Coumba Aiken of St. Paul. Aiken began painting Monday on the third floor’s circular wall created by the dome rising from Davis Court. Chances are you can’t picture the location, but the idea is to change those odds with the invitation of an inspiring, artistic environment and more space for studying and lounging. Aiken, who recently received the Sally Award for Vision, presented by the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, has been creating public works of art since 1970 for schools, neighborhood organizations, city planning and development organizations, and hospitals. Most notably, he has been the hand behind the Gillette Children’s Hospital mural in St. Paul, the Minneapolis Central Library’s tile fireplace and the North Side’s Pilot City murals project in Minneapolis. Ta-Coumba’s style is striking. Synesthesia of rhythm, color, and lines communicate what he calls “rhythm patterns.” As he works, the original, thematic images become situated in the complex beat of his sense-confounding visual rhythm. He creates layers upon layers that lose and project the original form simultaneously. It may sound abstract, but it’s an abstraction that works. It all comes together in an explosive melody of color intended to honor ancestries, heal, and inspire the communities he works with. “Ta-Coumba works in an inclusive style and sees his work as a visual voice for communities and a vehicle for enlightenment and change,” says Karin Trail-Johnson, Associate Dean of the IGC. As is often his approach, he is drawing from the community’s consciousness for inspiration and direction. He has gathered students’ conceptions of global citizenship over the past week, and has synthesized them into “spirit lines,” or some of the first, and most basic forms to build from. “I feel like it would be presumptuous of me to not ask for input,” says Aiken. “I need the spirit of the campus community to give it your visual voice.” Ta-Coumba will be painting next week from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday. Students are invited to view the murals progress, talk with Ta-Coumba, and share your ideas. He hopes to be done with the project by finals week. The creating isn’t meant to stop with the mural, though. “I think this project is another way of encouraging people to think through what global citizenship means,” says Trail-Johnson. ”Global citizenship is in a sense personal — you have to own it and enact it yourself,” she notes. “We tend to only examine things in a linear, verbal way at Macalester and this offers an opportunity to push yourself to express your understanding and wisdom in a nonverbal, visual way. I think that is a very valid and often challenging form of expression.” Bringing greater breadth of perspective, inspiration and subjective reality to a discourse so central to our community’s purpose seems a worthy endeavor. We are in a bubble in more ways than one. “It’s easy to critique from an armchair,” says Trail-Johnson. “We’re taught to break things down through critique, but it’s another thing to use those pieces to create something.” The mural is meant to be a step in that direction – enacting, refining, and expressing global citizenship on the public and personal level. It’s also hoped that color and meaning will attract students and make the Markim feel more like home and less like our copper temple to global citizenship.