Student painting teams aim to finish Mural on Mount Steps in November

Painting began on Sept. 28, with two shifts of painters working on Sundays.

Last year in her functional sculpture class, Madelyn Minicozzi received some advice that struck her.

“Things in the world do not need to look like their function,” her professor, Jude Lewis, told the class.

Those words stuck with Minicozzi, now a industrial design sophomore, as she trekked back and forth to classes throughout her freshman year. As she went up and down the stairs towards Flint Hall on the Mount, she kept thinking about how Lewis’ words could apply to the wooden walls she walked past.

Photo: Sam Fortier
Madelyn Minicozzi, who pitched Mural on the Mount last year, reviewed all designs before painting began.

Last April, during Chancellor Kent Syverud’s inauguration celebration, Minicozzi presented this idea at the “Fast Forward Student Showcase” in front a room full of faculty and students. Her design was just one of 13 selected out of 70 submissions to the program, which empowers SU students who have ideas that benefit both the University community as well as the greater Syracuse community. The winners receive up to a $1,500 grant to see their projects come to fruition.  

Minicozzi and her team are now entering the final stages her “Mural on the Mount,” she said in an email, and hope to finish by early November.

Her pitch was a re-invention of the Mount steps, transforming them from what she calls “a long, sad trek” to one that represents the ingenuity and creativity of Syracuse students and alumni. Part one of her plan required a clean-up of the stairs, which meant fixing broken panels and steps and sweeping a walkway scattered with nails and trash.

Part two is where the creativity began.

Her re-invention includes splashing the walls with the images representing all corners of campus. It’s not one cohesive “mural” per se; rather it’s an exhibit of individual works, side-by-side, with paintings that represent organizations from around campus. The idea of the project was many, smaller pieces extending from top to bottom of the steps, she said.

Each individual piece of artwork was submitted to Minicozzi for review. However, she said no one got a rejection notice.“I realized that denying someone from painting their design on the stair felt like turning a part of the university away,” she said. “I was not okay with doing (that).” Instead, she sent letters asking that the person edit and re-submit.

The painting started on Sept. 28 and has included “painting teams” that work in shifts, she said. On Sundays, one group paints 9 a.m. to noon while the other crew works 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Minicozzi is considering extending her early November deadline, though, to ensure that the project does not suffer in quality.

Getting to this point has not been easy for Minicozzi, she said.

“I have never organized anything this big before, so it was crazy getting together 54 people at the same time,” she said. “The biggest struggles have been … maintaining the supplies, while also working with the back-tracking caused by graffiti and destruction of panels.”

Minicozzi and her supervisor, Ellen King, executive director of special events at SU, are discussing solutions for this last problem. One possible way to curb this vandalism that has been discussed is possibly installing cameras at intervals along the steps.

That Minicozzi hasn’t let this and other challenges derail her project does not surprise Lewis, whose words were the original inspiration for the project.

After he pointed out the challenges to a project as big as this one, Lewis said, Minicozzi wasn’t afraid.

“I saw fire rather than fear develop in her eyes,” Lewis said. “Among her many attributes are self-respect and stubbornness, which are two great forms of fuel.”

Minicozzi said she’s had multiple students thank her in person as they make their way up and down the stairs for enhancing what she calls the “mount experience.” She’s thrilled at the transformation the steps have undergone since she’s began her work because the current freshmen will never have to know what it looked like before.

Estephany Hinojosa, a sociology freshman, is one of the people who will get to enjoy the new murals for her time in Flint Hall.

“They’re cool. They’re diverse, and they give you something to look at,” she said. “You get to learn about the different organizations on campus.”

Just like Jude Lewis said in her inspiring words, even though the stairs function is to get students from top to bottom, there’s no reason they can’t look just a little nicer.  

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