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The Sum of Ostrom, Common Pots, and Persistence

About the Exhibition


Aug 15, 2022 – Aug 20, 2027


Joyce Cummings Center — 177 College Ave


Jamal Thorne

The Sum of Ostrom, Common Pots, and Persistence is a two-story mural by Boston-based artist Jamal Thorne that speaks to the JCC’s history and relation to Indigenous and African American communities as well as the current group of Tufts students who use the site for learning and meeting. Thorne evokes a seeming past made present through the reclamation of iconic symbols, such as a walnut tree, native flora, a standing clock, lanterns, and a quilt. These variously denote the setting’s connections with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the Underground Railroad, and George L. Stearns, a Boston merchant and abolitionist whose estate was acquired by Tufts in 1920. Furthermore, the inclusion of an abstracted road sign alludes to Thorne’s collaboration with the Math and Economics departments, the varied fields and perspectives represented among faculty, and an appreciation for how the wonders and theorems of abstract thought connect with human behavior.

Thorne’s expansive use of the towering space provides viewers with multiple perspectives of the same image—the mural experience changes when seen from above, at eye level, or encountered serendipitously by those walking across the hallway. Accomplished through a photorealistic drafting style in black acrylic paint, the mural has a slow, meditative quality that maintains an overall volume, texture, and illusion. Each stroke undertaken by Thorne and his team alludes to the massive project’s collective and collaborative nature, as well as diverse perspectives on the site’s past and present. As such, the work prompts viewers to question the significance of each symbol in relation to the space and themselves. Why are these symbols here? Who are they speaking to and about? What may they tell us about Tufts University’s history?

The Sum of Ostrom, Common Pots, and Persistence is part of the Joyce Cummings Center (JCC) Art Program with artworks on floors 5+6, 3+4, and the entry lobby screens. Funding for the JCC Arts Program was generously provided by Dr. Joan M. (J ’69) and Alan Henricks. The commissions were developed by the Tufts University Art Galleries with the JCC Art Working Group and Tufts Public Art Committee. Special thanks to the team of artists to helped realize The Sum of Ostrom, Common Pots, and Persistence: Lily Bell, Sally Lee (MFA ’20), Nicolas Papa (BFA ’18), and Luiny Juliao (BA ’25)