Commissioned by Academic Services, Senior Ashley Young ’22 created the mural “Thriving Together,” which is currently on display in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC). The mural is a welcome to the Class of 2025, as well as a nod to the 2021 New Student Forum book “Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea & the Deep Origins of Consciousness” written by Peter Godfrey-Smith. Every year, students are sent a book that will be then discussed with the author as a part of their orientation.
“I wanted to have an opportunity to paint something large, and paint something for the university,” Young told The Brandeis Hoot in a Zoom interview, “I am very excited that it gets to be out in public and that a lot of people get to see it.”
The idea for the mural came from both “Other Minds” and the Critical Conversation series happening at Brandeis in October, which have the focus of community. “Other Minds” discusses consciousness and philosophy, as well as octopuses.
When deciding on what to propose for the mural, Young said she was looking for something that tied these two topics together. While doing her research, she discovered “Octopolis[,] … a grove off the coast of Australia where octopuses come together and live together as a community … which is weird, because usually they are individual creatures and only come together to mate.” This then became the inspiration behind the mural, Young explained.
Young was inspired by the fact that Godfrey-Smith in “Other Minds” theorizes that if there was a larger group of octopuses that live together in a community, it could cause an evolution of social behavior. Young thought that this theory was very symbolic of the first-years coming to Brandeis, whose main commonality is the fact that they are here; she wanted to show that evolution comes out of community.
However, when it came to the mural itself, Young said that she “struggled with imagery connecting the community to octopuses because they don’t live together.” In the end, she decided to lean for a more naturalistic view of this.
Young described the actual process of making the mural as “all-hands-on-deck for about three weeks,” as she spent over 30 hours making it. Young told The Hoot that she “just really wanted to contribute what I [Young] could” to the first-year class, especially as an artist who is so embedded in the arts department at Brandeis.
Following its display in the SCC, the mural will be displayed in Goldman-Schwartz and afterwards hopefully continue its journey around Brandeis.