July 12, 2016
A group of Susquehanna University students recently returned from Northern Ireland, where they were invited to contribute to the urban landscape in Belfast with original graffiti.
The study abroad trip was part of Susquehanna's nationally recognized Global Opportunities (GO) program, in which all students study away in a culture different from their own. The two-week journey to Northern Ireland exposed students to local politicians, ex-members of the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Defense Association, and peace activists to learn more about the country's legacy of violent political conflict.
The design of Susquehanna's mural was a collaborative effort among the 16 students who traveled abroad. Located on St. Peter's Cathedral Youth Center in Ardoyne, a Catholic neighborhood in Belfast, the mural faces one of the city's peace walls, which are barriers built to separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods throughout Northern Ireland.
"The significance of our piece is one of unity and peace," said senior Michael Doran, a creative writing major from York, Pa. "The river and bridge represent a Lutheran hymn about the peace of mind a river provides and the bridge connecting people. It is a wall designed to depict the relationships between people and how we can overcome our differences."
Every student had a different role in the mural's production, from designing the typeface to the overall layout and finally painting the wall using stencils. The Susquehanna and GO logos and the bridge were painted free-hand.
Beyond providing the community with some urban artwork, the students learned about the history of peace walls through their pre-departure coursework, which examined the history of The Troubles. As an Irish-Catholic himself, Doran said he has always sympathized with the nationalist struggle to become part of Ireland.
"What affected me most," Doran said, "was the overwhelming cry from the youth of the country to put aside differences and align themselves with the ever-changing tide of the rest of the world."