Q&A with Sam Weinberger, creator of new BU Hillel building mural

Photo courtesy of Sam Weinberger

By Susannah Sudborough
BU News Service

BOSTON— On Oct. 11, the Boston University Hillel building inaugurated a mural in its stairway depicting a pair of open hands above the Boston skyline.

The mural is entitled “Encompass.” It was done by Sam Weinberger, a sophomore painting major at the College of Fine Arts. Below is an interview with Weinberger.

How did you come to create the mural?

I am a visual arts student at Boston University. I’ve been painting and drawing my whole life. I recently went to Miami for a huge art festival called Basel Art Festival. It was so much inspiration for me as an artist. It made me think that I really wanted to get into murals.

So when I got back to Boston University, BU Hillel had already said this could be a possibility. I already knew a lot of the staff that worked there, so it was easy to bring up the idea of doing a mural.

How long did it take you to complete it?

It took me about 35 hours.

Can you tell me about the concepts behind it?

I started by going to BU Hillel’s website and doing some research, going to find their values and mission. Their mission statement is: “Inspire, educate, and empower Boston University’s students to lead meaningful, joyous, Jewish lives.” Their vision: “Every student makes an enduring commitment to ignite their Jewish identity, activate community and engage the world around them.”

These two quotes run into the design heavily. I knew I wanted hands in it as support, as a way to empower students. High contrast colors allowed me to bring out that power in the piece.

The bottom has the Boston skyline. It moves up to the hands, which are almost touching the skyline.

The mountains on top invoke the idea of activating the community, engaging the world around them, engaging more than student themselves. Reaching out into the mountains and finding their passion, whatever that may be, and making the world a better place.

Is your Jewish identity something that is important to you and that you have cultivated at Boston University?

Yes, absolutely. I love Hillel. I go there every day. I’m an active member of the community. Having my art on the wall at Hillel was a huge honor. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t tell the future but this may have activated and started my career, which is really exciting.

Why is that identity important to you?

I grew up Jewish. Judaism has been a huge part of my life. When you’re 13 you do your Bar Mitzvah, which is a huge passage. You have to do a Mitzvah project. It’s something you do good for the world and that benefits the world.

I treat this as a Mitzvah, as something that gives back to my community. I’ve always loved doing Mitzvahs. I’ve always loved the smiles on people’s faces and making someone’s day better. It doesn’t have to be a big thing.

What started your interest in becoming a visual artist?

It was a video game actually. It’s called “The Last of Us.” I loved the art in that game. It made me think that I wanted to do animation. I wanted to figure out how it was done. Then I found out I had to know how to draw. That’s where it started.

That summer I went to an animation and drawing preparatory camp. I was the worst one there. I couldn’t even draw a circle. The professor there told me to choose a different path, that I was too late in the game to start an art career.

But I thought: Alright, this is what I want to do. I just stuck at it and now I’m at school for art. It’s been a journey. I’m still learning every day and growing so much. It’s been awesome so far.

Is perseverance an important value to you?

Definitely. I live my life that way. I truly believe that if you think of a goal and have it in mind and put 100 percent effort into it, it’ll happen. I don’t know when, or any specifics, but I do believe it really does happen.

Why are you known as “Big Sam?”

I’m almost seven feet tall. People just started calling me that and I thought it was a good idea. If people saw me they would recognize that. It’s an easy correlation. It’s short and it’s easy to remember. I don’t know where it started.

Are there any specific artists that inspire you?

There’s one that goes by the name of Kiptoe. He’s a mural artist and he does work all over the world. He uses harsh, saturated colors and spray paint, which is everything I’ve wanted to get into.

How would you describe your style?

I like dark backgrounds. I like saturated colors. But I’m still trying to figure out my style. I was looking at an M.C. Escher book recently. His first drawing that was listed was from when he was 26. And I see that and I think: Wow. 26. That’s almost ten years from now. I can’t imagine where I’ll be when I’m 26. I’m just starting to make art.”


For more of Sam Weinberger’s art, visit his Instagram page at @bigsamspaints.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.