California State University, Long Beach
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Colorful Multicultural Center Mural Greets Visitors Every Day

Published: October 15, 2009

Half a dozen beautiful women greet visitors to CSULB’s Multicultural Center every day, thanks to art, and the efforts of a student and a staff member.

Cynthia Schultheis, assistant director of the center who joined the university as a student in 1988, recruited Art Education major Victor Cervantes to paint a brightly colored mural at the entrance to the facility depicting “Cross-Crossing Cultures.”

“Because they represent the majority of the people on campus, women are featured,” said Schultheis, who came to CSULB for her bachelor’s degree in American Studies in 1991 and her master’s in history in 1994. “Each woman holds some item from a different culture. The Hmong woman holds a Kwanzaa basket; an African women holds calla lilies, symbolic of Mexico; a Native American woman holds a Middle Eastern guitar, a Middle Eastern woman holds a dove of peace (representing the English translation of the word `Islam’ into `peace,’); a Greek woman holds a Japanese fan and a Frida Kahlo lookalike holds an artist’s palette and brush.”

The center is happy with its new art work, Schultheis said. “This mural is a way of putting a little color into the working environment,” she explained. “It reflects a feeling that the center is a place of life and color. Students like it.”

Schultheis feels the mural reflects the Multicultural Center’s mission.

“The overarching mission of the center is to contribute to the creation of a campus environment that is truly inclusive,” she said. “That means a university which respects and affirms the equal human worth of every individual and of all distinctive groups of people. The center is a uniquely welcoming place where one is invited to communicate across lines of culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and class. Our director, James Manceau Sauceda, felt this mural offered an opportunity to present cross-cultural understanding and mediation and to counter a tendency among students to balkanize their cultures. This mural shows this center goes beyond just tolerance and actively celebrates other cultures.”

Multicultural Mural
Photo by Victoria Sanchez

The mural also reaches out to the surrounding community. “We get a lot of kids from area junior high and high schools,” Schultheis said. “We want them to see what this university offers. We also wanted the mural to reflect the diversity this campus is so proud of. This is a very diverse campus and we wanted to show students that cultures can meet and engage through art.”

Schultheis invites the campus community to visit the center and check out the new art work. “Come and discover us,” she said. “You probably walk by every day. The Multicultural Center is the best-kept secret on campus.”

–Richard Manly