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Tunnel murals, painted by students
Artwork: circa 1960(?) to the present
Berkeley College

Though I’ve been fortunate to inventory numerous portraits and artifacts in every nook and in multiple locations on campus, part of me was hoping to discover something a little offbeat, a little funky, unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a cacophony of colors and textures in a series of large murals adorning the walls of a somewhat damp, harshly lit, underground U-shaped tunnel connecting the north and south courts of Berkeley College.

Vibrant images—including a giant squid, woodland creatures, the night sky, super- heroes (Marvel and DC), a Fonzie-esque young man, and even Bart Simpson—
accompanied me as I traipsed the entirety of the tunnel. The pièce de résistance is a full-scale medieval procession, rivaling any tapestry found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many of these vignettes are signed with a student name and a class year; the earliest I spotted was the class of 1981. The most poignant rendering was done in the fall of 2020, by the class of 2024, students whom future historians will undoubtedly know as the COVID generation.

The Berkeley Tunnel Murals are an organic, free-style, active art installation. To
formally curate or classify them would destroy their original intention, and their charm. And they will continue. Dave Evans, head of college at Berkeley, wants the spirit of this student-run art project to go forward, ongoing and ever-changing, through many years and decades. Where else on campus have students freely expressed their own experiences as they happened, both for themselves and for the benefit of future generations of Berkeleyites?

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