Artist Amy Bartell lectured on art and activism, and a mural being painted in the CUB Lair.
By Scott Shigeoka
She dabs her paintbrush in vivid red paint and concentrates as she strikes the blade of the brush against the mural. Amy E. Bartell, a world-renowned artist, political activist and lecturer, said she aims to change the world through art. She has contributed art pieces to various non-profit organizations, international conferences and universities. Her work has been commissioned by institutions such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Bartell held a presentation called, “Art is a Daring Adventure: Art and Activism,” in the Compton Union Building (CUB) Wednesday. She said the purpose of the presentation was to talk about her life and the mural she is painting in the CUB Lair. The piece is expected to be unveiled Friday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.
“I am an artist and an activist because I love this world, and I want to encourage and help change it for the better,” she said. “This WSU mural is important because it embodies the idea of everything this great community has to offer.” Bartell has been a professional artist for 25 years, and she has wanted to be an artist since birth, she said. But the road to get to where she is now has been challenging at times.
“I sold one of my original pieces of artwork for $200, which was huge to me at the time, because I needed to pay for rent,” she said. “I look back at that moment and wonder, but you know, you got to do what you need to do to get the machine going.” By the time Bartell was in her 40s, her parents had passed away within 13 months of each other. As a result, she became the oldest person in her family. Her 40s have been a transformational period in her life, but she said she is able to continue because of her passion for activism and art.
She has met many people in her life who have inspired her work in activism and art, Bartell said. For that reason, she loves to travel.
“Symbols: The World Entire” is a piece that is featured at Holocaust museums internationally and is inspired by Debbie Gaynes, an individual that helped her during a period of her life, she said. Bartell said she founded a feminist political publication company, which many banks did not want to help fund, and so she needed money to springboard the publication off the ground. Gaynes helped Bartell get the money she needed in exchange for dedicating the piece to her father Chaim, a Russian Jewish scholar who was murdered in the Holocaust, Bartell said.
The $10,000 mural project has been spearheaded by the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC) since early August, said Matt Kelly, the student life coordinator for GIESORC. The project was funded through donations from various university departments, he said.
“GIESORC is the driving force, but the mural is an all-encompassing project, which we all hope will bring unity to the WSU community,” he said. “The idea for the design of the mural was a collaboration between Amy, faculty, staff and a group of students who comprise a student mural board.” Matthew Long-Rhyne, a junior psychology major, is a member of the student mural board and has helped with fundraising, designing and painting for the mural.
The idea of the mural is to help unify everyone on campus, Long-Rhyne said. “The process of everyone coming together to paint the mural is such an important part of the purpose,” Bartell said. “The mural brings together all types of people, and builds connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.” Everyone of all skill levels are encouraged to come to the CUB Lair to participate in the painting of the mural, she said. She will provide everything participants need, including paintbrush, paint and painter’s T-shirt. She said there is no mistake that cannot be fixed.
“The painting of the mural allows students, faculty, staff and community members to make a lasting impression on the campus,” she said. “The mural is a safe space for everyone.”