Inspired by a spring break trip to Cuba, members of the service group Reach Out have erected a “Free Speech Mural” on Cross Campus as a response to recent allegations of hate speech at Yale and the suppression of free speech in Cuba.
Displaying the words “Honor Every Voice,” the mural is a collective project for passers-by to add their own art to one of the 12- by 18-inch spaces. Originally intended to be a mural in support of peace, Reach Out members said they decided to change its message after recent events at Yale and in Cuba.
“It was inspired by a mural we saw in Havana which read ‘No A La Guerre,’ [No to the War]” said Jocelyn Lippert ’04, who helped paint a square in the Havana mural during the trip. “In the recent weeks — it seems like the campus has become fractionalized. We decided [the mural] needed a different message.”
Ultimately, the Reach Out members decided on a theme of free speech. The Cuban government has arrested scores of dissidents in recent weeks, sentencing many to lengthy prison sentences. The crackdown, which is the most extensive in several years, has prompted international condemnation of the island nation.
“It fits perfectly within the context of what students need [here at Yale],” said Greg Pasquali ’04, who organized the creation of the mural.
The students built the mural Saturday and offered free paint to anyone who wished to add to it. By the end of the afternoon, many of the spaces had already been filled.
“We want anyone to paint about anything,” Pasquali said.
By Monday, the mural was nearly covered with paintings, a collage, penciled thoughts and a poem. While many of the patches expressed desires for peace, others contained meditations on issues of homelessness, faith and gay rights. One space contains glued clods of grass and dirt and the words “Live simply.”
Although Tess Korobkin ’06 did not go on the trip to Cuba, she said she wanted to help after hearing about plans for thae project.
“I’m very interested in public art and the way public art makes a place for people to work collaboratively and express a range of opinions,” she said.
Korobkin decided to paint a blue eye in the corner, which she related to both public art and democracy.
“I think it’s an interesting idea that it is watching you and you are watching it,” she said.
Other contributors, like anti-war activist Leela Yellesetty ’05, decided to use mediums other than paint. Yellesetty taped up a poem she had written, which she described as “a statement of how I’ve been thinking about [the war].”
The colorful mural attracted many spectators during the day, who slowed their pace to peruse the various images. One viewer, Will Tanzman ’04, stopped to examine the mural Monday afternoon.
“For one thing, I think that it’s actually artistically nice,” Tanzman said. “It’s not just politics. I like how it combines a lot of smaller pieces into one big statement of life, joy and justice at the same time.”
Pasquali agreed that the mural transcended its individual parts, but regretted that it would not be a permanent fixture on Cross Campus. After April 30, Pasquali said it will probably reside in his backyard on Dwight Street.
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