'One Tree, Many Roots' mural celebrates diversity

December 5 2008

Students, faculty and staff at Indiana State University come from more than 55 nations. Now, they're being represented by a new mural in the Hulman Memorial Student Union that celebrates diversity and welcomes international students to the campus.

The "One Tree, Many Roots" flag mural was officially opened during a recent ceremony. Covering two walls in the Dede II corridor, the mural features hand-painted flags from around the world. The grey branches of a painted sycamore tree extend to touch all of the flags.

"This work of art will likely evoke a very different response from each of us as we walk through the Hulman Memorial Student Union," said Jacques Fuqua, director of the International Affairs Center at ISU.

In remarks made during the ceremony, Fuqua said the mural brought six words to his mind. The first three words were "e pluribus unum," which means "out of many, one." The second three words were "novus ordo seclorum," or "a new order of the ages."

"I hope we remember that this is much more than a set of flags, but rather a depiction of who we are," Fuqua said.

The project was created by students from Nancy Nichols-Pethick's intermediate and advanced painting classes. Nichols-Pethick, assistant professor of painting, said the project began with decision making as to how the mural would be put together. Then the students spent hours designing and painting the flags.

"It took a lot of collaborative effort," she said.

Students painted each nation's flag on an individual piece of wood and then mounted them to the wall. A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson has been painted above the set of doors leading to Dede II: ""A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flowers and fruitage is the world."

"As an artist, you never know what something is going to be until it's all done," Nichols-Pethick said, noting that when she and her students stood back to look at the finished product they realized using grey for the tree was a very intuitive choice. "Grey is what you get when you mix all the colors together. That's really a beautiful metaphor for what this mural is supposed to be."

Part of the mural project featured special painting days where international students were invited to help paint flags. Students from various international student organizations and the INTERLINK Language Center took part in the project.

A.J. Babb, a senior majoring in fine arts, said getting to know students from other countries was the most rewarding aspect of his work on the mural. He hopes the finished product will inspire other students to reach beyond their own cultures and embrace differing viewpoints.

"I hope they get the sense of unity it was meant to represent," Babb said.

The mural project marked the culmination of International Education Week at ISU, an annual series of events promoting diversity and international awareness among students.

The "One Tree, Many Roots" mural will be expanded and plans are already underway for the next phase of the project. A discussion meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 in the Hulman Memorial Student Union, room 227. Members of the campus community are invited to attend and share ideas.

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Contact: Randy Green, International Affairs Center, Indiana State University, 812-237-2440 or iac@indstate.edu

Writer: Emily Taylor, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu

Photo: Students view the newly created "One Tree, Many Roots"mural. (ISU photo/Justin Schwab)

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Story Highlights

A new mural featuring flags from around the world now welcomes visitors to the Hulman Memorial Student Union. The project was a collaborative effort designed to celebrate diversity at Indiana State University.

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