[by Danbee Kim '09]
I'm a big fan of allowing your environment to enhance your mental facilities. As such, I love that there are dorms on campus where you can paint your own walls and string up your own lights. If you want to foster a community of free-thinkers, who are going to generate the ideas that will bring technology and society into the next age, why put them in a sterile box? Aren't we all supposed to think "out of the box"?
If ever you get a chance, you should take a tour of some of MIT's greatest works of student art, found in the murals, graffiti, and what some would call "vandalism" of our dorms. You can find references to comic books like Transmetropolitan and The Sandman; sci-fi tv like Doctor Who and Firefly; old-school video games like Metroid and Pokemon; and even twists on some old classics, like a neon Guernica. The cornucopia of artistic overflow splatters onto the walls of our living spaces, and helps define, complement, and enhance who we are. How do we have time to paint murals? After a grueling day of psets, papers, and reading, how can we not take some time away from those mind-sucking, brain-frying academic responsibilities? It's a way to keep sane. It's a way to vent your pain, anger, joy, and passion.
My hall even goes so far as to hold mural painting parties—our dorm has a certain amount of funding set aside for student painting projects, so we get reimbursed for the supplies we buy. It's a great way to bring together all the different years on a hall and spend some time together in a context different from the usual frantic "I must get work done" mode. And now that we've personalized our living spaces, it doesn't feel like a sterile box that does nothing to mitigate my homesickness. College is a new experience to most people when they first get there, and I for one loved the fact that I could create my own little burrow on my corner of campus, and really make this place a home away from home.
It also gives you a sense of ownership and community in your place of residence. Be it tourists or a new batch of freshmen looking at your work, it's quite satisfying to hear, "Wow, I like this one, who did it?" Also, knowing who painted what and what stories and circumstances surround each piece makes these murals an artistic record of the people and culture that have existed within the bounds of those walls. It's almost like cave paintings. You can remember the people and their stories by the art they leave behind.
Cultural and social reasons aside, I think there's a deeper attraction to painting murals. It's the inner thrill of throwing paint and your own ideas onto a wall. Remember those days when you drew on your parent's walls with crayon, or wanted to finger-paint your windows? In most "respectable" homes, a bunch of crayon squiggles around the house at about two feet high would be considered a poor choice of home decor. But now, now that we're all adults and away from home, we can draw on the walls again!
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Here are some examples of the student art you can find hidden inside of MIT's various dormitories. (I didn't get a chance to photograph East Campus….yet. But soon!)
Click each thumbnail for a full-sized version & see if you can figure out where each one is.
Photographs by Ken Haggerty '11 and Sadie Scheffer '10.