Hyattsville community members gathered at the Art Works Now facility Friday to celebrate a mural created in collaboration with University of Maryland students.

Students at this university in lecturer Ben Edwards’ fall 2023 advanced painting course, “Painting on Site I,” created the mural, titled The Garden of Imagination. Students collaborated with each other to create the installation for the Art Works Now courtyard as part of the creative placemaking minor.

The university offers the creative placemaking minor as a collaborative minor between the arts and humanities college and architecture, planning and preservation school. Students who take the minor partner with local institutions to create accessible art, with a goal of encouraging public dialogue related to social inequities and diversity among communities.

The mural sought to invoke elements of nature, social justice and community while also remaining relatively abstract. With larger than life flowers and neon-toned fields, the mural depicts nature as vivid and expressionistic.

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Several of the students involved in making the mural attended Friday’s celebration, along with Edwards. 

Senior studio art major Carina Cain stamped handprints from everyone in the class and on the mural, painting details to turn the hands into flowers in the mural’s center. Cain said the collaborative process was both limiting and freeing in the possibilities for creating art.

“It was hard sometimes when other people had different opinions or ideas, but in the end, working with more people is better than less, because you just get so many different people’s influences and, histories that come together to make a beautiful piece,” Cain said.

Cain said she found collaborating with her peers to create community-centered artwork to be a beautiful experience.

Mánique Buckmon, Art Works Now’s senior program director and an alum of this university, said Art Works Now serves as an accessible space for community members to engage artistically as a community. 

Buckmon said the mural is interactive, using chalk paint to invite community members to add on to the already existing installation. She said the mural, which was installed in December, brought warmth to the atmosphere of Art Works Now, a feeling Buckmon said has continued to ripple through since.

“I think it’s just going to be a piece that we stay proud of now, but also tomorrow and then the days ahead,” Buckmon said. 

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Communal art making inspired The Garden of Imagination, and its celebration inspired more interest in the public arts.

Senior studio art major Kelsey Nieto is not taking the creative placemaking minor, but took Edwards’ class to practice muraling as an art form. She worked with Cain on the handprint flowers whilst adding her own floral elements to the piece, including black-eyed Susans.

Nieto said the mural taught her how to think more abstractly as an artist, since she tends to create more realistic art.

“After taking this class, I’m open to, like, you know, doing murals and seeing where that process takes me,” Nieto said.