As students ventured around the Queens campus during Homecoming week, a new sight grabbed their attention. Hidden in the alleyway between the North and the Byrum parking decks was a mural of spray paint and graffiti, all done by Queens’ own student body.
The collage of street art is called the Freedom Expression Wall, a project undertaken by the Student Government Association (SGA). There had been plans to create one for several months. “[It was] actually one of my constituents’ ideas,” said Marcus Ramos-Pearson, senior class president. “They brought it up to me over the summer.”
Ramos-Pearson loved the suggestion. “He was interested because he saw other colleges and universities having the same kind of concept,” said Stephanie Bunao, SGA Executive President.
SGA had a bevy of reasons for supporting the project, chief among them the wish to create more engaging activities on campus for students. “The concept is that people can come, bringing their own spray paint, and just relieve stress through some type of artistic expression,” said Bunao.
Though a fan of the idea, Ramos-Pearson and a few other members of his committee realized there would have to be rules in place. After a bit of musing, they realized how they could regulate it. “We were like, ‘You know, the Honor Code should basically cover most of it,’” Pearson said.
Next it was a matter of finding a proper location. Ramos-Pearson mentioned that a few ideas were proposed, but they did not want it to be in an area too busy or visible. He eventually proposed placing it between the two parking decks, due to the low necessity of traversing that area and the ability to close it off with gates if necessary. “It’s not a high stakes area on campus; it’s not like we’re spray painting the side of an academic building or something,” joked Bunao.
Adding to the benefits of the chosen location was the school’s plan to eventually tear down and rebuild the North parking deck. “If the school didn’t like it, they’d only have to put up with it for a few more years,” said Pearson.
Fortunately, the school liked it. SGA acquired permission from Troy Luttman, the campus architect. He even made them a plaque to commemorate the formation of the Freedom Expression Wall.
The wall filled up pretty quickly, and though SGA has no plans to expand it or add another area, they are encouraged by its success. “I think free expression is a big value for our country and our democracy, and I think we should celebrate that,” said Bunao.
The free expression wall came about as a result of a student proposing an idea to Ramos-Pearson, and he hopes this displays a willingness from SGA to work with the student body to help create more activities around campus.