Where once were bare walls, a playful, abstract mural now lives.

Painted earlier this summer, it runs throughout the Student Development office block in the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center, greeting visitors as they arrive and traveling across the central collaborative gathering space shared by student organizations.

And it’s the work of one of Hope’s own: Ashley [Johnson] Mary ’07, a Minneapolis-based artist and graphic designer whose career has included clients like Google and Starbucks, and her own lines of cosmetics bags and journal notebooks in Target stores. The lively style of her art made her an ideal choice to help the space embody its philosophy, said Dr. Ellen Tanis ’90 Awad, who is associate dean of student life at Hope.

“The intent of this office is to bring people together and create energy and synergy, and we in Student Development felt like Ashley Mary art could do this for us,” Awad said.

When Mary graduated as a newly minted religion major in 2007, she didn’t envision the professional arc that she’s followed. She’d taken a small handful of studio art classes at Hope and enjoyed it, but originally worked at a church and pursued art as an interest. As the years passed, the interest became so serious that she went back to school part-time to complete a post-bachelor’s certificate — and later a master’s degree — in graphic/web design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

After earning the certificate, she was employed in the design industry, but she now has her own full-time studio practice pursuing her own projects as well as collaborations and commissions. Murals are a relatively recent interest since 2017, and one among many. Her studio work focuses on acrylic paintings and collage on paper, but her oeuvre includes artwork, prints, and product development like stationery, earrings and even socks.

“I said ‘yes’ to a lot of design avenues to figure out what I really loved,” she said. “It was a slow burn. I didn’t overnight start painting murals.”

Mary developed a concept for only two main walls in advance of coming to campus in June to paint Hope’s mural, but once she saw the breadth of the space she was inspired to expand on her original design, envisioning a way that additional wall space could be integrated.

The function of the space and the way that her work could play a role in it, she said, was itself intriguing to her as an artist. “What was really exciting was to contribute to a space where students gather and connect,” she said.

At the same time, she said, returning to her alma mater this summer was more than a commission.

“Having a relationship with the college was special,” she said. “For me, it felt sweet to create another version of my relationship to this space as a current version of myself.”

For more about Ashley Mary ’07 and her work, please visit ashleymary.com.

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