Roski mural project embraces inclusivity

Grafitti covered studio walls as the collaborative mural piece accumulates community artwork. The audience is welcome to participate in this liberating art project from Jan. 19-25 at the USC Roski Studios Building IFT gallery. (Alia Yee Noll Daily Trojan)

When you’re a kid, you’re taught not to draw on the walls; it’s considered taboo, immature and unacceptable. However, the Wall Drawing Invitational, open to the public on Jan. 19, allowed the Roski community to do just that. The collaborative mural spans all four walls of the USC Roski Studios Building IFT gallery and spills onto various dividers donated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). 

Roski students, faculty, staff and alumni came together to draw on the gallery walls over the course of four days. Their instructions were to “creatively graffiti” however they wanted, allowing the Roski community free range over the blank, white canvas of the IFT gallery. Roski Chair of 2D Art Edgar Arceneaux described the inspiration behind the Wall Drawing Invitational. 

“This show is an opportunity for us to reconnect with the most primal part of being a creative person, which is just to make a mark,” Arceneaux said. “And sometimes that’s on the walls. I really wanted to open it up to people’s abilities without the exclusiveness that sometimes happens with a curated show.”

Makayla Howard, a senior majoring in fine arts, coordinated the project. She explained that the open-ended nature of the Wall Drawing Invitational not only encourages innovation and expression, but also combats the often elitist restrictions on creating art. 

“There is a taboo about drawing on the walls and just something really anarchist about it,” Howard said. “We’re stepping off of the paper and the canvas that we’re used to and seeing what we can make outside of that.”

Howard also spoke to the difficulty of wanting to experiment with art in an academically rigorous environment like USC.

“When you go to USC and it’s a very academic-based school, not a lot of people want you to be an artist or show that creative side of yourself,” Howard said. “That’s a part of it also, coming together as a group of creatives and saying, ‘we’re going to do it anyways.’”

Woman draws on wall.
Artists can take inspiration from or build on the work of their peers. (Alia Yea Noll Daily Trojan)

Arceneaux explained that the goal of the mural is to foster inclusive, large-scale collaboration in a traditional gallery space.

“Somebody could’ve left a drawing behind, and you could draw something next to it and add to it, or you could draw over it entirely, and it’ll disappear,” Arceneaux said. “Or you can come in here with somebody you don’t know and draw next to them, and then decide that you want to connect together. There’s a lot of rich opportunities for community-building.”

The spirit of collaboration is imbued in the very essence of the Wall Drawing Invitational. In fact, when I arrived at the gallery on Jan. 11 to interview Arceneaux and Howard for the Daily Trojan, one of the first things Arceneaux asked me to do was assist with moving the LACMA dividers. Then I helped roll out butcher paper and rearrange the table of art materials in the center. When I revisited the space on Jan. 17, that same spirit was in full swing: Professor Ruby Osorio’s Painting I class inhabited the gallery, trading chalk pastels and admiring each other’s graffiti. 

Wilha Duncan, a freshman majoring in art and a student in Osorio’s class, based her contribution to the mural off of another illustration she noticed on the gallery walls. 

“I saw someone else draw a big fish on the wall and it really inspired me because I love fish. They’re maybe my favorite thing to draw, so I put a fish sitting in a chair,” Duncan said. “Everybody’s drawing their own different thing and it’s big and it’s beautiful. You can see into everybody’s head.”

Makayla Howard a senior at USC, created the Wall Drawing Invitational exhibit to give the Roski community a unique opportuntiy for unrestricted artistic expression in a communal space.  (Alia Yee Noll Daily Trojan)

After a week of being open to the public, there will be a party to whitewash the walls and cover up the mural on Jan. 25. The walls may be repainted, but Arceneaux and Howard’s message will stay the same: creating art in a gallery should be open to everyone, anywhere. The Wall Drawing Invitational is one step towards making art accessible to all. 

“When you think of empty white walls in a gallery space, it does evoke some type of privilege and exclusivity,” Howard said. “I think that this will help artists see their work in spaces like that. It’s important to be able to come into a gallery space with these white walls and decide, ‘I’m gonna do what I want on it.’ That alone, that action is really powerful.”

The Wall Drawing Invitational is open to the public from Jan. 19-25 at the USC Roski Studios Building IFT gallery, 3001 S. Flower Street.