Amherst students with artist Rico Gatson in the Mead hallway where the mural will soon take shape. Photo by Matthew Chow ’18.
Amherst students with artist Rico Gatson in the Mead hallway where the mural will soon take shape. Photo by Matthew Chow ’18.

As part of larger efforts to reimagine Amherst’s art museum, Mead director David E. Little has launched Hall Walls, an annual project that gives artists and students the freedom to create an ephemeral mural on the walls of the museum.

The first artist to participate is Rico Gatson. Beginning in October 2016, Gatson and Amherst students Tacia Diaz ’19, Chloe Tausk ’19E, Chelsea Pan ’18, Emma Hartman ’17 and Jay Fields ’17 will create a mural on three walls of a hallway inside the Mead.

The Artist

Portrait of Rico Gatson Gatson at the Mead beside his collage drawing 
“St. James #3.” Photo by Matthew Chow ’18.

Gatson has amassed an extensive body of work in a variety of mediums over the past two decades. From mixed-media paintings and collages to immersive sculptures and video installations, his work has become known and celebrated for calling attention to significant moments in African-American history.

The Inspiration

Over the past nine years, Gatson created a series of collage drawings featuring iconic African-American personalities—among them, Nina Simone, Muhammad Ali and James Baldwin—with colorful lines drawn from the center of the figure to the edge of the work. “For years I’ve wanted to translate the power of the lines onto actual walls, creating an immersive experience or installation,” Gatson says. “The Hall Walls project has provided the perfect opportunity.”

The Vision

Intending to work with latex and acrylic paint, Gatson has proposed a design that covers three walls of the museum hallway. “I’m excited to brainstorm with the students about various approaches that we might use,” Gatson says. “I have a master plan but we’ll definitely take a journey of creative discovery together.” 

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Rico Gatson: Watts Kids, 2015, color pencil and photograph on paper (22
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