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Mural Contest Winner’s Vision Comes to Life

Carmina Ferreras standing in front of mural wall

The Graduate School, located on Centennial Campus, welcomes hundreds of students every semester. Current and prospective students who step into our office visit us with a wide range of questions, from admissions inquiries to professional development opportunities.

All of this foot traffic got us thinking. Why not create an attractive, Instagramable, NC State-inspired piece of artwork on the lobby wall that would grab the attention of our students and their followers on social media?

Back in October, we opened the mural contest up to all NC State students and postdocs. We asked students to create a mural design that would not only be beautiful but also innovative and inspirational. Mural contest winner Carmina Ferreras did just that!

Carmina is a fall 2021 graduate school alumna from the College of Design and a 2015 graduate from the College of Education. She is currently employed as a project designer for Cannon Architects. We sat down with Carmina to ask her some questions about her winning mural entry and graduate school journey.

Tell us about your path to architecture and what led you to NC State?
I’m a former high school math teacher who graduated from the College of Education at NC State in 2015. I taught for three years in North Raleigh, and while the profession taught me a lot about teaching and collaborating with students and teachers, there was always a design itch I couldn’t quite get rid of. I was constantly starting up new drawings, paintings, carpentry projects, etc., in any spare time I had. My dad is an engineer, and while I grew up watching him draw structural plans all of my life, it never quite connected that there was a significant design aspect to these drawings. Not only was there a design aspect, but a big part of it was solution-finding. Solutions for the cleanest design, and the most sustainable and efficient iteration. This excited me greatly because I had been teaching students how to do just that in math for the past three years. There are many ways to get to an answer, but what makes the answer beautiful is how minimal, efficient, smart, and creative one found the solution to be. When I got into architecture, it quite honestly felt like home. My first thought was, “Wow, I didn’t know there were others who thought like this.” I wanted to attend NC State for the variety of what they offered. NC State promotes such diversity in students, faculty and a great range of classes: anywhere from landscape architecture to an airport studio.

Looking back at your time as a graduate student, what were your favorite experiences? What advice would you have for any incoming graduate students? Did you have any struggles, and how did you overcome them?
My greatest experiences were review weeks and making life-long friends (especially in that small frame of time of a review week). Review weeks allowed me to curate presentations, models, and drawings so that I could see the entire project come together. While it’s not uncommon to be nervous for jurors to critique your work, I was just as excited as I was anxious to hear the feedback of my work – everything that I had poured my all into for the past few weeks. Reviews were eye-opening and even had my classmates supporting each other. This was when the studio spent the most time with each other and shared ideas. Classmates helped glue models together when one was running out of time. People made runs to McDonald’s at 2 a.m. to get food for the studio if anyone skipped dinner. It was a great environment to be in a studio that was both competitive and supportive.

What inspired you to enter the mural contest?
I saw the Nashville WhatLiftsYou Wings mural example NC State posted online looking for something similar for the graduate school. Those wings resonated with me, having just graduated. I was motivated to have a career change into design, and if I can help others do the same if they are thinking about it, this was an innovative and creative way to do that.

Your design is not only beautiful, but it also has deep meaning. Tell us about your design.
The design is one long continuous line stroke that layers into circles representing the journey to one’s success/destination. While young minds think that success – from point A to point B – should be linear and straightforward, it rarely ever is that. Instead, that journey looks more like meandering, u-turns, circles, mistakes, and trial and error. We learn and grow the more we experience and the more we meander. The circles have varying line weights, and sizes to show different phases in our lives, spending more time in one phase over another. The circles also represent social networks, circles of friends, communities, and important relationships that come and go in our lives. I chose to make this design for the Graduate School because graduate school meant a second career, a second chance, and another circle in my path. NC State University helped me achieve that.

What do you hope that someone takes away from seeing your design?
Overall, the mural concept shows that while the destination is what keeps us going, when you look back at your journey, you realize it was the mistakes and the learning that makeup who we are as individuals. And that is never linear. In fact, the more circles we draw in our lives, the more dynamic and colorful our lives become.

What has life been like post-graduation?
It has been a great experience so far to be able to apply what I’ve learned in the past three years. While there is still more to learn in this field, it has been a pleasure to work with Cannon Architects, who teach me how to be a thoughtful designer every day. We are currently working on Durham Academy, an educational project. Funnily, it has been “full circle” for me to be able to work with teachers again – just on the other side – as a designer today.

What are your plans for the future?
My next goal is to become a licensed architect and continue working on educational and residential projects. There are early thoughts of one day potentially starting my own firm. In addition, I also wish to stay in touch with the academic side of architecture so that I may continue to help students discover the field as I’m experiencing it.

This post was originally published in The Graduate School News.