SMU alum paints powerful mural in four pieces

Alumnus Juan Castillo completed the mural for SMU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs just before the fall semester began,

By Kim Cobb
SMU News

Mural by Juan CastilloDALLAS (SMU) – The images are large, bright and powerful, with the faces of inspirational leaders like Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai and Cesar Chavez dominating the gray wall in SMU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Alumnus Juan Castillo completed the mural just before the fall semester began, and he’s pretty excited to see it hanging where he spent so much time as a student.

“I did, and I do still love the space,” Castillo said.

He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting and ceramics with a business administration minor in 2013, then stayed on for a staff job at SMU. He remained friends with Creston Lynch who, as director of Multicultural Student Affairs, served as the young artist’s mentor.

“Fast forward to about 2015,” Castillo recalled. “I was working at SMU as a residence hall director. Creston and I were kind of bumping in to each other, and he mentioned that he wanted a mural for his office. I agreed, but never quite got around to it. Then I left my job at SMU, and he said, ‘Hey Juan – I’m serious!’”

Castillo got to work.

Juan Castillo
Juan Castillo

“One of the things I’m missing is an artist’s studio,” Castillo said, explaining that he paints in his bedroom, which comes with spatial limitations.  So the mural was produced in four pieces, which now hang as one.

“I was never really able to see all of them together,” during the painting process,” Castillo said.  “When I finally was able to hang it on the wall and see it as a unit – it was an awesome experience! It just felt right.”

Castillo, 26, is in New York now, getting a master’s degree at Teachers College Columbia.  He says he “did everything but art” after graduation from SMU, though he’s picked up a few commissions and has started an online art gallery.  And of course, there was the Creston Lynch “commission,” which he loves seeing on display:

“It’s been a while since I painted something that made me feel that way.”