Alumna’s Murals in Oscar Ritchie Hall May Link Past with the Future 

If you walk on the second level of Oscar Ritchie Hall, you will see a brightly colored mural that spells out the word AFRICA in large letters. Look a little closer and you will notice profiles of Black people in the large letter forms. A chain runs across the bottom of the mural to symbolize oppression.  

 In 1971, Yvonne Bandy, the creator, was a Kent State art and design major. She was one of only a few Black art and design students out of about 500 total and among a handful of Black students asked to paint murals in what was then Lowry Hall. 

Bandy painted her murals on the back walls of two classrooms, creating them directly on drywall/ sheetrock that was primed with gesso to prepare the surfaces for painting.  

“My mural called AFRICA was inspired by a quote from Marcus Garvey which became a mantra in the 1920s and ‘30s,” Bandy said. “The quote was: ‘A people without knowledge of their past history, culture and origin is like a tree without roots.’”

Yvonne Bandy painted the Africa mural in Oscar Ritchie when she was 19 years of age.

Bandy also painted another mural that portrays a generic person without facial features in the fetal position, like the position that had to be taken on slave ships, she said. She repeated the imagery of the chains of oppression and included pyramids in the background.  

“As I attempted to create the sky, using acrylic paint, it began to drip,” Bandy remembers. “Frustrated, I decided, let it drip! I thought to myself, ‘If I were enslaved, it would probably feel like the sky was falling!’ This mural was inspired by the work of Jackson Pollock (an abstract artist known for his drip technique) and the Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, whose figures in mural paintings were more like silhouettes of people in a more graphic style. When I look at this work today, I also see characteristics of a Keith Haring style from the 1980s.”  

One of alumna Yvonne Bandy's murals painted 53 years ago.

After graduating from Kent State in 1974 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, she taught art for one year at her high school alma mater John Adams in Cleveland. Then she moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she earned a master's degree in art education, with a concentration in painting and drawing.  

She has extensive experience in the art world having worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, ad agencies on Madison Avenue, at major publishing houses and at American Express as an artist, educator and graphic designer, while living in New York for 12 years.  

She moved to New Jersey and coordinated the first associate degree in graphic design at a community college, where she remained as a professor for 31 years.  

From 1974 until 2016, Bandy did not see her murals until she returned to Kent State for a reunion of the Black Alumni Chapter. The murals had been cut out of the sheetrock wall, framed and remounted in the renovated Oscar Ritchie Hall.  

“I was speechless and in awe. Today we are witnessing a kind of renaissance particularly in mural painting. I am seeing very creative, impeccably rendered murals in urban and suburban areas around our country. Millennials and GenZers are using some of the available digital tools to produce some fantastic work.  

Yvonne Bandy painted this mural now hanging in Oscar Ritchie when she was 19 years of age.

Bandy painted her murals when she was 19 years old, 53 years ago and she wonders if it may be time to “contemporize them.”   

“It is time for a fresh makeover of Oscar Ritchie Hall so that current generations take ownership and express some of the more recent historical advances and accomplishments from different ethnic groups.”  

Bandy is currently retired from teaching, but she continues to create artwork using both traditional drawing and painting methods as well as computer graphics and digital design.



POSTED: Monday, February 26, 2024 02:02 PM
Updated: Monday, February 26, 2024 03:13 PM
April McClellan-Copeland
Yvonne Bandy