Published June 22, 2018
Britney-Bay Croyle has always enjoyed the many murals painted throughout the Center for the Arts. She loves them so much that she hoped she could make her own one day.
“As a freshman, when I first started taking studio art classes, I enjoyed the murals around the Center for the Arts so much,” says Croyle, a rising senior art major. “I went with UB SLIDE (Student Leadership International Dialogue and Exchange program) to Ireland and there was a girl who just finished her mural and we bonded over her experience doing it. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait to do that one day.’”
Croyle always kept in mind the thought of creating her own mural as she continued her education at UB. She knew there was a class that culminated with students making their own murals, but she didn’t know the class number.
“I didn’t know what the class number was, and somehow I enrolled into it (Thematic Drawing, ART307) this past semester not actually knowing that this is what I was going to be doing,” she says. “It was really cool because I had worked with the professor a couple times before in different classes. It was really intimate, there were only a few kids in the class, and everything worked up to [the mural].”
Instead of painting her mural in the Center for the Arts, Croyle elected to paint hers on the side of Knox Hall’s main staircase, where thousands of undergraduate students will see it during the fall semester.
For the artwork, she drew inspiration from her time as an environmental studies major during her freshman year. She says she felt detached from the environment while on UB’s North Campus, and that lead to her mural topic.
The mural, aptly named “Succession,” is a representation of trees getting taller from right to left. Croyle painted the entire piece in one color and challenged herself to only use one paint brush. She says the mural’s intention is to symbolize growth and draw people to nature.
“Even as an environmental studies major, I felt disconnected from the environment, which felt really weird,” she says. “We have Letchworth Woods near the dorm side of the campus (near the Ellicott Complex), but we’re not really exposed to that much natural environment around here. I hope this kind of sparks a desire to be outdoors and to connect yourself more to nature.”
Millie Chen, professor in the Department of Art and the instructor for the course, calls Croyle’s mural “a wonderful and effective expression of her deep and abiding commitment to the natural environment.”
“The wall drawing is visually, technically and conceptually accomplished, referring specifically to the local natural environment of the campus,” Chen says. “At the same time, Britney has chosen to keep the imagery lyrical, interpretive and open-ended, inviting passersby to slow down and see and perceive new aspects each time.”
Chen notes that in working through the challenges of Croyle’s project, the pair discussed the spatial challenges of the Knox stairway site, and how best to capture attention to the artwork, given that the traffic flows in multiple directions. “We also weighed the balance of depicting a more literal, illustrative rendering of a complete ecosystem against the potentially more compelling aesthetics of a symbolic, restrained composition,” Chen explains. “Britney is visually astute, and was therefore sensitive and perceptive enough during the making of the mural to pay attention to these considerations and not overwork the drawing.”
With more to add to the mural, Croyle expects to have it finished by the end of the summer. She plans to add the only color to the piece with a bird near the largest tree as a way to attract attention. She also will add shrubs at the base of the mural.
Croyle says she’s excited with how her artwork has turned out so far, but she’s even more thrilled that it’s being showcased in a place like Knox Hall.
“I’m so happy because this is actually the first mural that’s outside of the CFA,” she says. “All of the other murals have been contained inside of that building. I really hope with future semesters that people will add murals to the rest of campus. It’s so aesthetically pleasing to walk around the CFA and enjoy the art, but when you walk around a place like Knox, it’s a little plain, so I hope it spreads around here.”
Chen also hopes this project will lead to more murals outside of the Center for the Arts.
“Not only would an increase in visually and conceptually stimulating murals enhance the campus environment aesthetically and intellectually, but this mode of expression would benefit vital, direct, student-to-student communication,” she says. “I strongly believe that anything that stimulates lively, informed discussion on campus can only be a good thing.”