North Seattle College Unveils Mural Celebrating James Baldwin

james baldwin mural 2024

A new mural celebrating the life, work and activism of James Baldwin was unveiled June 12 in the North Seattle College library. The mural, located on the south wall of the library’s third floor, is one of seven murals now featured on the college’s campus.

The James Baldwin mural was painted by students enrolled in the spring quarter Mural Art course taught by faculty member Kelda Martensen. The students worked with the design of professional artist Yvonne Ferguson, while learning the steps of mural execution, budgeting, design, and the role of community engagement.  

“In her statement of interest in the project, Yvonne’s inspiration for the mural was a reflection of the respect, admiration and continued influence of James Baldwin’s life work and social commentary,” Martensen said. “In the mural, she combines elements of Baldwin’s life, personal triumphs, challenges, travel and gifts.”

Images reflected in the mural depict the transnational context of Baldwin’s imprint on community and society and provide a more intimate holistic view of this historical giant. Baldwin was a writer and civil rights activist best known for his semiautobiographical novels and plays that center on race, politics, and sexuality. In her design, Yvonne includes Baldwin's passport photo, the Istanbul landscape, a portrait of him at his Istanbul apartment, the Eiffel Tower depicting his treasured period in France, his hometown Harlem brownstones, and a store entrance sign from his visit to Durham, NC.

North Seattle College’s mural program started in 2014. Each new mural brings a renewed focus celebrating the college’s iconic campus architecture, cultural diversity of its students, staff, community, and their place on indigenous land. For each mural project, students in Martensen’s ART 204: Mural Art course are teamed up with the design of a professional artist.