When Aiury Cavallo entered a contest to design a mural for El Rincon Latino in Stevenson Dining Hall, the budding artist’s only comparable experience was with spray-painting walls and large surfaces.
After a year of labor, the finished 16-foot-by-6.5-foot mural has been installed in the public space where Oberlin College students and faculty can practice speaking Spanish while having lunch.
Cavallo, a third-year Africana studies and visual art major, is among a small minority of Brazilian, Portuguese-speaking students on campus. Cavallo also learned to speak Spanish in high school.
“The Latinx community really is important to me. I wanted to make an image that’s a symbol of unity and us coming together, having fun together, organizing, and doing difficult work together, all in this space where people speak Spanish and eat together.”
The college announced the design contest in late November 2015. The idea sprang from a guest lecture by muralist Cesar Viveros, who spoke about urban murals as a social tool. Viveros, an artist and muralist based in Philadelphia, is well known for his most recent mural, which was dedicated to Pope Francis in honor of his visit to Philadelphia in September 2015. His lecture explained how programs to create collective mural-making are powerful tools for generating dialogue, building relationships, empowering communities, and sparking economic revitalization.
The Stevenson mural consists of four sections with acrylic paint as the primary medium. Cavallo said all the flags of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean are represented. The colors, however, “represent people to me, way more than the shapes of the flags.”
“The forms of the flags tell a lot of the imperial, colonial history — the bloody history of how theses countries came to be and how these flags were created. The colors have an energy to them. They are the pride of people. The colors are what can be taken out of those flags and made ours again. I wanted to design around the colors coexisting with each other and intersecting. I also wanted each flag to be recognizable so that people can take it and apply it in our shared heritage, even if they were born here and removed from wherever their parents came from.”
The process took longer and was more labor intensive than expected, but Cavallo was passionate about making it look professional.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I loved making this.”
A formal unveiling ceremony will be held later this spring.
This article was provided by Oberlin College communication staff and edited for clarity.