Student's murals brighten middle school walls

March 31, 2022
Mural by Devin Tormey '22
Student Devin Tormey, center, with Professor Catherine Buell, left, and Professor John Crawley
From left, Associate Professor Catherine Buell, Devin Tormey '22, and Associate Professor John Crawley.

Devin Tormey '22 has always loved to paint, and when she found she could make money selling her paintings as a business, she saw an opportunity to merge two passions.

The senior business administration major from Fitchburg decided to develop a formal business plan for her artistic pursuits as her capstone thesis project for the university’s Honors Program. She credits her advisor, Assistant Professor John Crawley of the Business Administration Department, who encouraged her to fold her artwork into those plans.

“Devin is a tremendously talented student and artist,” Professor Crawley said. “Her work in the classroom is exceptional and her artwork moves the viewer.”

Crawley brought Honors Program Coordinator Catherine Buell, herself a member of the university’s Mathematics Department faculty, into a discussion of how to proceed. 

“We began to discuss stepping outside the conventional academic box to include some of her art in a way that would bring added meaning and life to the development of her business plan and support a community interest,” Crawley said.

The ensuing discussions and shared connections led Tormey to Samoset Middle School in Leominster, where Dean of Students Kenneth Ricker advised her to consider creating murals on the gymnasium walls.

Tormey applied her business skills to the design of the murals, creating a questionnaire for members of the Samoset community and conducting interviews with students about what the words in the school’s mission and values mean to them.

“That was really important in helping me design the murals,” she said. She sketched her ideas and projected them onto the blank walls of the gymnasium, ultimately spending about 50 hours over nine days creating the finished work.

The resulting murals each measure eight feet by 12 feet. One features a striking, blue and white depiction of the Samoset Wildcats mascot. The other includes aspirational words–civil, achieve, respect, and encourage–backed by stylized text from Tormey’s research, bearing phrases like “Equal rights for all,” “Stay Positive,” “Be Kind to One Another,” and “Grow Thru What You Go Thru.”

“We’re extremely excited these murals will be a showcase for the school,” said Ricker, who noted students at Samoset have enjoyed studying the embedded messages inside the murals. “It really brightened up an area we’d been looking to improve for some time. Devin is such a nice person and she did a great job. It was a win-win for everybody.”

Student Devin Tormey speaks near Samoset murals

Professor Buell said she was thrilled to join Tormey, Crawley, and other members of the school community when the murals were showcased this week at Samoset, where a plaque acknowledging Tormey’s contributions was unveiled.

“I remember when Devin presented her work after the first semester of her thesis,” Buell said. “While talking about her artist business plan, she showed us pictures of her paintings. The last 15 minutes of the presentation was all of us gushing over her work and thinking of all the ways we could help her get her talent out there.”

Buell said Crawley’s ideas, connections and passion helped bring the mural project to life.

“We always hope that the Honors Thesis Project will be transformative and personalized to students, but also challenges them to accomplish work they didn't expect they could do,” Buell said. “The one-on-one guidance from faculty is a unique opportunity and becomes an experience of partnership that transcends the classroom.”

Tormey is also proud of what she achieved. “It was really, really fun,” she said.

After graduating this May, she plans to pursue her MBA.