It looks like the peace sign mural on Main Street and the soothing sunflower field swaying on the cusp of town may have some new competition, as an Insta-worthy butterfly mural has broken from its cocoon onto the campus’ academic concourse, with an inspirational message behind it.
Students can now capture pictures with this Kelsey Montague-inspired mural, which was completed in June.
Montague is known for her colorful and complex butterfly mural designs that can be found at locations worldwide. Most notably, Montague designed a mural to serve as an Easter egg for pop icon Taylor Swift’s release of “ME!” in Nashville, Tennessee this past April. Her involvement in this design garnered her art more recognition. The innovators behind the project on campus believed that something like this would be a great fit for the community to bring more people together.
Similar to Montague’s hashtag “what lifts you,” the creators of this mural ultimately decided that the hashtag “own your wings” would drive the remaining process behind the project itself. Carmen Calderon, designer for the Office of Communication & Marketing at SUNY New Paltz, also revealed that this hashtag is in creative correlation with the school’s tagline “come as you are.”
The metal plaque was installed at an area on campus that experiences large amounts of traffic throughout the day, as it is found next to the staircase that leads up to the walkway between Sojourner Truth Library and the Coykendall Science Building. Calderon desired to update the “very drabby, sad looking area” that filled its place before the project landed.
Calderon worked with Delani Morgan (‘19), the student creator of the hashtag, from start to finish, as he interned as the social media manager for the Office of Communication & Marketing during his final five months at the college. Morgan also managed the official SUNY New Paltz accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, alongside a couple other student interns, who were all initially given the task to come up with hashtag ideas for this new project.
Morgan said that he offered a total of 20 suggestions for this mural, after being asked to provide them with five to 10, with the winner (#OwnYourWings) placing fourth or fifth on his list. His favorite personal creation was “I Am Flight.” Above all, Morgan’s main objective was to think of something that would include the varying types of “identities, people and ideologies” that he found on campus during his experience as a student here. In doing this, Morgan also desired to illustrate his appreciation for the college by contributing his creative efforts.
“I was graduating [and] cementing my legacy at the school, leaving something to be remembered by… [Now] I always wake up to a lot of notifications, so it’s really a great feeling to be a part of something like that, especially since the school affected me so much,” Morgan said. “[The school’s] mascot is a hawk, so I thought that it would make sense to use wings. So I thought about: what do wings represent to me? Like liberation, freedom, things like that, but I also merged it with identity: own who you are.”
In terms of the design itself, the winning version competed against one other final option, which was described by Calderon as having featured many colors, like blue, orange, yellow and green.
In the early stages of the mural’s renderings, identifiable objects like buildings and words associated with New Paltz were detected inside the art print. However, the group of students and staff members who worked together on this project did not wish for there to be anything “institutional” in the finished product. They want its observers to find their own meanings.
“Once I got that feedback I went back to the drawing board and I thought, ‘What is organic? What could be free?’ So I started just swirling and being very organic and that’s when I came up with the design,” Calderon said. “There is artwork on campus, but it’s not interactive, so this would be something fun and different, which I hope it is. It’s just for our students to have fun with… [and] be proud of who they are and what they can be when they fly.”
Morgan believes that the hashtag he created could be applied to many people’s lives, which is a sentiment expressed by graduate student Natalie Angley, who is studying adolescent education with a concentration in English at the college.
“I think it’s really beautiful, it’s inspiring. I like the message,” Angley said. “I think a lot of students are taking pictures with it and bringing more awareness about our campus. It’s a great idea. They should probably keep doing things like this in the future.”
However, not all students are enthusiastic about the new mural on campus. Fourth-year public relations major Lisa Mitchell was not drawn to this design when she saw it.
“Maybe [they chose this mural] because it doesn’t speak to anybody in particular, it speaks to everybody, which is helpful, but own your own wings? I don’t know,” Mitchell said. “I’m 48, I already have my wings. I know what they are, so maybe it’s inspirational for other people, but not really for me.”
Morgan studied English with a minor in sociology at New Paltz and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in strategic communication at SUNY Oswego. He claims that his experience working in this department on this mural helped to guide him towards the next step in his career.
“The school really allowed me to prosper in every way that I needed to,” Morgan said. “Hence why I came up with the hashtag ‘own your wings,’ because they were my wings.”