Illustration grads create murals for the new Newnham Cafeteria

A large-scale mural project for the new food hall at Newnham Campus will depict stories of meaningful experiences at Seneca — educational, social and professional.

Led by faculty in the School of Creative Arts & Animation, a team of five graduates from the Illustration and Animation programs will illustrate a series of six murals this summer based on the contributions received from the Seneca community. They will then paint the murals on the walls of the food hall in the fall.

Dr. JoAnn Purcell, Program Co-ordinator of the Illustration and Art Fundamentals programs, is the project’s creative director.

“This is a collaboration, and one that the Seneca community is contributing to in an authentic and fulsome way,” said Dr. Purcell, who has a PhD in critical disability studies. “We want the murals to be an intersection of our past and present, all the people, and the flora and fauna of Seneca.”

The project team collected moments, memories, stories, artifacts, photographs, drawings to contribute to the final mural design. They are also working with Seneca Archives and First Peoples@Seneca to incorporate the history of the lands where Seneca is located, weaving different narratives into a large crowd scene using line art illustration.

Food hall
Led by faculty, a team of five graduates from Seneca’s School of Creative Arts & Animation will paint a series of six murals on the walls of the new food hall at Newnham Campus. (Photos: Angela Dunn)

“We will be taking the stories people submit and translating them into drawings,” Dr. Purcell said. “This large collection of visual references will be compiled into a composite drawing of an extended narrative to reflect the Seneca community.”

This is not the first time Dr. Purcell has led a mural project at Seneca. In 2017, she and her team created a mural at Seneca@York Campus in a similar style. That mural, illustrated by Seneca graduate Joy San to promote the Illustration program, is the inspiration for this project at Newnham Campus.

“Our graduates are quite skilful,” she said. “They will draw the basis of the elements in the mural from the responses submitted. We want to show not just the human experience, but also anything from the architecture to the regional plants and animals.”

The mural project is based on the Seneca Au Large principle to build the equitable Seneca — finding ways for all members of the Seneca community to contribute and celebrate Seneca’s diverse population and its diversity of programs and services. The mural will be created with sustainable materials and pay tribute to First Peoples.

Peggy Pitawanakwat, Co-ordinator of First Peoples@Seneca, says she is looking forward to seeing the final artwork.

“Sharing cultural pride through beautiful imagery reflects the important legacy of Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island (North America),” she said. “What a beautiful way to honour our ancestors and create a connection for all.”