Scene on Campus

Picturing Pauli

Mickalene Thomas '02MFA produced a dining-hall portrait of Pauli Murray you just can't miss.

When Pauli Murray College opened in 2017, head of college Tina Lu knew the dining hall needed a portrait to commemorate the civil rights activist, priest, and poet the college is named for. The college selected artist Mickalene Thomas ’02MFA, a graduate of the School of Art, for the commission: no mere oil painting over the fireplace, but a mural in mosaic tile covering the upper part of one of the long walls of the room.

After six years of planning and fabrication, the mural was installed over spring break. At an unveiling ceremony on the Monday after students returned, Thomas (seen embracing Lu at far left) said she “wanted to create a portrait that would definitely live forever, . . . so when you come in here you feel her spirit, you see yourself in her.” Said Lu to the students, “I love that the Pauli commemorated here is your age. . . . Plan big. Be monumental. Be enduring. Be challenging.”

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