Every year, 10 of the 87 murals on the Merrill Moat wall are replaced with new and original student artwork. Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.
Every year, 10 of the 87 murals on the Merrill Moat wall are replaced with new and original student artwork. Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.

Merill College was filled with sounds of revelry last Saturday, when students gathered to paint, play music and barbeque for the annual Moat Day. They also observed the artistic process as it unfurled itself upon the walls of the moat, a long strip of concrete at Merrill College that has several large murals painted across its expanse of cement.

“Every year, we host an event where current Merrill students get to vote on which 10 murals will be replaced and, on the day that we replace them, a large art-friendly event takes place,” Merrill College Programs Coordinator Seth Hodge said.

The moat wall, which started out as a blank slab of white-washed concrete, stands in the center of the college, where it was unofficially tagged with graffiti for several years until it came to be the center of a continuing community beautification project at the college.

About 40 years ago, Merrill students collaborated on an art project that allowed the students to leave facets of themselves at the school for all to see.

Ten of the 87 murals are annually picked for replacement by Merrill residents, and those who are interested in painting a new mural can submit a design to the Merrill College Programs committee.

“There have been years where only 10 people have wanted to paint murals and, when that happens, everyone who submits a design gets to create one,” Hodge said. “But when we have more than 10 submissions, a contest is held, and students vote for the paintings they’d like to see adorning the moat.”

Every year, in the heart of the northeastern-most part of campus, Merrill students congregate along the moat wall in order to record their own histories and ideas on the central structure.

“It’s awesome getting to see all these cool murals being painted right outside the dorms. I can’t wait to see them when they’re done,” said Ethan Kaminski, a third-year Merrill student who attended the event.

Ramona Prado-Olmos, a first-year at Merrill, elaborated on the significance of the new murals and the Moat Day event.

“It’s nice to see a new bunch of murals. Each new piece puts a different aspect of Merrill as it currently is on the moat,” she said. “This whole project shows all the different perspectives and artistic visions of Merrill students. Some paintings are political, environmental … but every perspective is quintessentially Merrill.”

Apart from the ability to express a creative vision, the moat-painting event also provides an opportunity for aspiring Merrill musicians to showcase their talents. Student musicians are encouraged to perform at the moat-painting event to contribute to the atmosphere. Merrill student government representatives provide refreshments to encourage more participation from the students.

This year, one of the new murals created was a collaborative effort from an entire hall of students at one of Merrill’s dormitories.

Ainsley Blattel, a first-year Merrill student who helped her friend Jake Eades paint a mural inspired by Lewis Carrol’s famous poem “The Jabberwocky,” felt proud of her contribution to the Moat Day event.

“It feels good to know that something I contributed to will be at Merrill in the years to come,” she said.