Marquette’s commuter student lounge gets an artistic facelift

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Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Ali hopes that the mural will bring together.

If you looked inside the commuter student lounge on the first floor of the Alumni Memorial Union two weeks ago, it would not have appeared much different than a college dorm room, minus the beds. A mini fridge, microwave, couch, table, chairs and a few posters and signs filled the space.

“It just looks like a random room in the AMU and I want to make it a more comfortable place for people to socialize and hang out,” Mariam Ali, a commuter student and senior in the College of Communication, said.

That is what Ali set out to do, spending two weeks working on a comic book-themed design on her iPad to pitch to the Commuter Student Association and AMU supervisors in the hopes it would become a floor-to-ceiling mural.

“I had an idea for a comic book design because it would be easier to paint on the wall and have everyone else help out,” Ali said.

Not quite finished yet, the word “Marquette” undulates across the blue wall in large bubble letters with Marquette Hall’s Gothic bell tower in the background. Ali expects it to be finished later this week.

“It’s just really impressive,” Javeria Choudry, president of CSA and a senior in the College of Health Sciences, said.

Ali spent 10 hours working on the mural on Saturday, Sept. 17 sanding the wall and painting the white surface blue. Once it had dried, she sketched her comic book design onto the newly covered canvas with the help of a projector and filled in the lines with black markers. Then fellow commuter students helped her do the bulk of the painting.

“That’s why I organized this mural, to bring people together,” Ali said. 

She also began this work of art to help a bigger cause.

“I also want to have this mural bring awareness to the commuter students’ issues here because right now there’s not a lot of opportunities for commuter students,” Ali said. 

Ali said some of those issues are expensive parking and a lack of opportunities.

“There’s more priority for people who live in the dorms for more opportunities than commuter students,” Ali said. “People will say, ‘to have the college experience, you have to live on campus,’ but that’s not necessarily true.”

Despite the shortcomings that commuter students may face, Ali is hopeful that change continues to occur for commuter students, in ways big and small.

“People are starting to see that we need to pay attention to this demographic of students,” Ali said. 

Being able to give the commuter student lounge a more welcoming look is one way that change is happening for commuter students, and it does not go unnoticed by commuter student Markell Harper, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“It’s the one place I always know I can go. It’s given me a great group of friends here,” Harper said. “It’s a commuter’s foothold on campus.”

Ali takes her creativity off campus too, at Milwaukee OATS Screen Printing, where she helps design clothes and logos at her internship.

“She brings an interesting perspective to our shop. She has a lot of insight into advertising and community partnerships, and that’s what we’re all about,” Enrique Murguia, owner and director of Milwaukee OATS, said.

“OATS” stands for “only a T-shirt,” and Murguia said that creating art is a way to build community and empower youth, both of which take place in his vibrant shop every day.

Ali is a role model for other interns and young artists to look up to, and is “a puzzle piece to our shop,” Murguia said.

Art is also an important puzzle piece in Ali’s life.

“I like art a lot because I can have anxiety. It started off as a mental health thing to get my mind off of things so art was just a great outlet to not have to think about my problems and just get in the zone,” she said. “I also have ADHD, I have all of these ideas in my head, and I have to get them out somehow. Art is just a great way for me to get those ideas out.”

Those ideas come to life for Ali on canvases ranging from T-shirts to walls, even in rooms that are seemingly as mundane as a dorm room. But the commuter student lounge has a fresh layer of paint and a new sense of community, which will be left behind long after the paint brushes have finished grazing over the work of art.

This story was written by Timothy Littau. He can be reached at [email protected]