A first-of-its-kind mural celebrating a unique partnership between U of T and Nobellum Enterprise to support Black entrepreneurship and underrepresented students in business and STEM has been unveiled at U of T Scarborough.
“The mural provided us with an opportunity to create a safe and inclusive environment for Nobellum’s founders. Now, incoming founders and innovators see something that clearly communicates that they belong in this space,” adds Melisa Ellis (BA UTSC 2015), founder and CEO of Nobellum Enterprise.
Officially unveiled at The BRIDGE Finance & Data Lab in the Instructional Centre on April 29, the Out of Many, One project brings together community voices to action the campus’ strategic priorities, amplifying themes of inclusion, anti-racism, and anti-Black racism in finance, STEM and entrepreneurship.
The mural is one more manifestation of what it means when we talk about inclusive excellence at UTSC. It represents our values of creating a learning and working environment that promotes belonging, drawing people together to enhance inclusion and enriching possibilities for each and every person,” says Professor Wisdom Tettey, U of T vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough.
Co-created by Toronto-based artists Claire Browne and Elicser Elliot, the piece was commissioned by U of T Scarborough in collaboration with Nobellum and The Ubuntu Creative Arts Project (UCAP). Partners include the department of management, UTSC library, UTSC community partnerships & engagement office, and Doris McCarthy Gallery.
Browne and Elliot led conversations with the UTSC community – and most importantly, deeply engaged students and Nobellum’s innovators – to design the mural as two distinct works. Meanwhile, record label RoundTable Records collaborated with more than 65 students from the department of arts, culture and media in a work-integrated learning (WIL) course to compose music for the mural unveiling event.
“We wanted to create a space that inspired inclusive excellence,” says Kathryn Lawrence, co-founder of Nobellum Enterprise and founder of UCAP, an initiative that promotes the artistic work of the Caribbean diaspora.
“The mural serves as a symbol of relationships and partnerships that existed in this space before it was created. It represents the legacy of community and partnerships that will continue.”
Browne, whose practice focuses on the themes of self-identity and heritage, was inspired by the paintings of Aaron Douglas, known for his illustrative work and gradient colours, for her vibrant piece, Untitled (Wayfinding).
“I’m very pleased with the final result and hope it is invigorating for students who use the space,” Browne says. “I created this work with the hope and intention it would be just as much about what students as individuals are bringing to the institution and their uniqueness.”
An aerosol artist, Elliott’s piece, Diversifying My Portfolio, featured organic shapes and improvised characters of various ethnicities sitting at a table to solve an equation.
“Sometimes, institutional spaces don’t foster creativity as much as they should. These pieces allow you to daydream and to get your mind moving,” Elliott says.
The mural’s unveiling also marks the beginning of new initiatives. A case study will be developed from consultations about the piece for U of T Scarborough students and faculty to gain insight on how to build meaningful diverse partnerships.
“More than 165 people contributed to this project,” says librarian Stephanie Perpick, director of operations and library services at The BRIDGE.
“When members of our community say, 'We feel seen, we are represented here,' then it feels like we are moving in the right direction to create an inclusive and welcoming campus for all.”
On June 3, Nobellum’s Demo Day will give cutting-edge startups a chance to meet funders that are driving the Black business ecosystem. The event will mark the one-year anniversary of the Nobellum Innovator Program and recognize the accomplishments of its 2022 cohort of Black Innovators in STEM. All U of T community members are invited to participate.