“Flowers and butterfly mask the genocide on the Karen People. A girl hiding in the Burmese forest from the brutal military junta. Many Karen crossed the Sarawren to peace and security in Thailand,” reads the text placed at the bottom of the three panels.
One step into the exhibition, and immediately the visitor is surrounded by a feeling of peace in the air. The grey walls display the large murals, but somehow the images can be both distinct in certain moments and fade into the background in others. It is grounding to see these works of art from the Federal Art Project, the Great Depression program that employed artists of all styles. The display cases in the exhibition give a good background on the history of each mural and their individual journeys from the day rooms in the Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island to the exhibit at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The real reasoning behind the creation of each painting was to calm the patients as they waited in the day room.
The Al-Huda Islamic Center of the Finger Lakes, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and the Multicultural Resource Center are currently calling for sketch submissions for a mural celebrating Muslim culture that has been commissioned for the Commons. The 50 foot by 16 foot mural — which will be painted on the wall leading into the Green Street parking garage near the Cinemapolis movie theater — will celebrate the culture of the approximately 750 Muslims who live in Ithaca, according to Nagiane Lacka Arriaza, the mural’s project coordinator. “There are murals depicting Native Americans and Latinos [in Ithaca],” Arriaza said. “We’re part of this community, and I believe we should be part of the art scene as well.”
She said she intends for the new mural to make the Muslim community feel more at home in Ithaca, adding that she believes the community is underrepresented in the local art scene. “I’m looking for the art to actually reflect the people who live here,” Arriaza said.