Students React with Palette of Responses to Developing Mural in Gottesman Library
A range of reactions met the beginnings of a mural on the Wilf Campus. The mural, painted on the swinging wall along the uncompleted stairway leading to the Gottesman Library, is immediately visible to all who enter the library building.
Discussion about the mural has brewed among students, both in person and on social media. One post on the Facebook group “YU Marketplace,” which has over 2,800 members, gathered a particularly high number of comments.
Students were pleased to welcome the painting’s colorfulness to campus. Pre-med freshman Ariel Aminov feels the mural “adds a lot of color to an otherwise colorless school.” Fellow first-year Yair Lichtman, YC ’19, studying Jewish studies and math, said the mural is “the most colorful thing on campus; I think our campus needs that.”
SOY Vice President Shua Brick, YC ’17, thought the mural “was really nice. I have no problem bringing some color to Yeshiva University. Many YU students have a harder time with change. I suspect that in a few years everyone will be used to it and will like it.”
Some were minimally apprehensive about the colors. Pre-med student Chaim Rosensweig, YC ’17, thought at first that the mural “was an obstruction on campus,” but then he realized that he “was too busy with finals to care.” Physics and math major Benny Aivazi, YC ’17, thought the painting “would have looked better on the first floor, which is so colorful and bright—the first floor is all brick and white.”
The addition of the mural to the Wilf Campus perplexed many students. “I don’t understand what it is supposed to be,” said one psychology student, who preferred to remain anonymous. “I know the artist’s [Connie Rose] Instagram explained the ideas, but I still don’t get it.” One Jewish studies major said he thought the mural “has nothing to do with the campus’s aesthetic.”
Other students did not understand why the university commissioned an artist from the outside when YU has many talented art students. “Studio art is a serious major on the Beren Campus,” remarked one physics major. “They work them [the art students] like dogs. I don’t understand why an art student could not have done this work.”
Manny Dahari, a Yeshiva College student who heads the Mishelanu Israeli student organization, challenged naysayers on the YU Marketplace Facebook group: “we don’t know why the university hired her—it could be…because that’s what she does.” Mr. Dahari suggested that commenters limit the discussion about the mural to positive discourse.
Currently, parts of the painting have been sprayed over with white paint. Ms. Rose explained that she is perfecting the mural and that the creative process involves attempt and erasure. Students expect changes between how the wall currently looks and its eventual completion and have noted that the current painting does not look exactly like the proposal the artist posted on her Instagram.
The wall dividing the Nagel Commons was installed because the library architect and donor wanted the space to have the feel of a library. This feel could potentially be hindered by the activity around Nagel Bagel, a cafe that sells snacks, drinks, and a limited menu of hot food. Part of the wall swings so that when needed, the library space and area for Nagel Bagel are separated. When the need arises for an undivided Nagel Commons, such as for the Open House, the wall can swing to be flush with Nagel Bagel.
Junior Class Representative Aryeh Minsky seemed excited about the new layout. “I think it’s great that YU is trying to add flexibility in what they do. While this is only a small step, it really reflects YU’s attitude for the future.”
The architect, a firm called RoArt, thought the mural illustrated the themes of the library. The painting is planned to show books that seem to be flying, intimating that knowledge is something that gives not just perspective, but heaven itself. President Joel confirmed that he reviewed drawings of the plans for the mural.
Ms. Rose, a native of the United Kingdom and currently a resident of the Lower East Side, studied art in her country of birth and has painted murals in places as far as El Salvador and as near as Brooklyn. She was chosen to paint the mural after she submitted the winning proposal for the mural to the RoArt architectural firm. She calls her style “abstract surrealism.” She said her mural, themed on books, is there “to inspire possibilities, because that’s the whole notion of a book…it can send your imagination into any place that you want it to go.”