UC Berkeley students paint social justice-themed mural at Cesar Chavez Student Center

Jasmany Flores/Staff

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Since the beginning of April, students have had a reason to approach the Cesar Chavez Student Center besides simply visiting the Cal 1 Card Office. Over spring break, a dozen students painted a colorful mural representing the theme of social justice in the breezeway that leads from Lower Sproul Plaza up to the Berkeley Art Studio and Sather Gate.

In the course of a five-week class with the Berkeley Art Studio, entitled “Make Your Mark Mural Project,12 UC Berkeley students worked together with two artists from Precita Eyes Muralists a community mural arts organization based in San Franciscoto create a mural entitled “Existence is Resistance.” During the class, which was free and open for UC Berkeley students to apply to, Eli Lippert and Priya Handa guided the students through the planning process and helped them paint the mural during spring break.

“The mural was completely come up with by the students,” Lippert said. “The students as a group came up with everything from the themes to the actual images.”

Lippert said the Berkeley Art Studio approached Precita Eyes Muralists about designing the painting because they wanted to create a mural revolving around social justice and paint it next to the Cesar Chavez Student Center. During the course of the project, the students came up with “Existence is Resistance” as a title to represent how they and the people around them experience social justice, Lippert said.

“It takes people of all different backgrounds and races and ethnicities and abilities to make progress and to change the world and to include everyone,” said Andreana Rosnik, a campus graduate student in physical chemistry and a student in the art class.

The mural features different sections designed to show various themes. While depicting a refugee experience on the left-hand side and the theme of nature versus technology on the right-hand side, two large hands in the center create unity between the different groups and communities represented in the mural, Lippert said. A golden eagle and a snake leave room for interpretation, but might symbolize power in the Americas, as well as an evil side — or the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to Rosnik.

Lippert said a character in a wheelchair, who is putting up posters together with a group of children, teaches viewers of the mural about methods of resistance.

“I think the mural is beyond gorgeous,” said Jasmine Gonzalez, a campus freshman and intended public health major. I like it because of the culture aspect of it.”

Michela Garber, a campus junior and sociology and media studies double major who was enrolled in the art class, found it “a little bit hard to collaborate” in the group, as they met only two hours each week. But she emphasized that she learned about teamwork and what goes into creating a mural, and that she enjoys seeing the mural every day when she walks by.

“You have to abandon your ego a little bit when you’re working on something like this and learn how to listen to other people, so I’m grateful for that,” Rosnik said.

Contact Charlotte Kosche at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @CharlotteKosche.