Senior Artists Create Annual Class Banner
Every year, graduating artists in Fine Arts III complete one final project: to design and paint their class banner, to be unfurled to the Hopkins Community at Prize Day.
This tradition of creating a banner to represent the legacy of the graduating class began in 1941 and it has continued to this day. These banners span almost eight decades and each is photographed, framed, and placed throughout buildings on campus.
A pattern runs through the artwork. While each of the banners is unique to the graduating class, school archivist Thom Peters noted, “They all seem to contain the names of each of the graduating seniors of the class and the class numerals. Some indicate the valedictorian (“V”). After that, they are quite diverse.”
More than a month before the reveal at Prize Day, the students in instructor Peter Ziou’s Fine Arts III began brainstorming ideas and designs for their banner. The senior artists Kyle Burton ’18, Bella Feder ’18, Owen Rahr ’18, Julia Silbert ’18, and Chantel Malin ’18 were responsible for finding an idea for the banner that embodied the energy and talent of the Class of 2018 while recognizing their own time and resource constraints. Malin noted that their design was a result of collaboration and deliberation: “We came up with an idea based on the fact that we knew it was going to be a small group of people taking on a huge project so it couldn’t be too complex. We then bounced ideas and sketches off each other until we came up with something that everyone liked, but that also seemed reasonable given the time frame and resources available.”
Because the Senior Banner represents the students in the class of 2018, the Arts faculty made sure that the students controlled as much of the process of making the banner as possible. “Beyond material support, we really try to stay out of it,” said member of the Arts Department and past banner advisor Eric Mueller. Ziou agreed: “I buy their supplies and ask them if they have an idea. That’s about it.”
After gathering the materials and solidifying their design, the students began to work on the banner using gesso as the base on the canvas and acrylic paints. The process of sketching, gessoing, and painting took weeks of work inside and outside the classroom. “We worked together as often as we could, but, given our schedules, it was inevitable that we would all have to work individually at some point,” said Malin. The students had to find time to complete the banner, while also participating in the senior service tradition on the week before graduation.
Even after pouring dozens of hours of collaborative work into the banner, there is always room for mistakes, especially concerning the last names of all 134 of students in the graduating class. Mueller, who oversaw the Senior Banner creation for years, recalled past projects when he had to add accidentally left-out last names to the banner at the last moment.
“The one thing I always told my students and that I was very careful of was to double, triple, and quadruple check the names. On several occasions, I’ve had to go in either right before Prize Day or over the summer and add in the names,” Mueller recalled.
The banner is not only one of the highly anticipated traditions of Prize Day, but also part of the Class of 2018’s impact on The Hill. Each year, Ziou tells his Fine Arts III class about the importance of their banner: “When the banner is unfurled in front of the school at Prize Day, it is a showpiece that should be optimistic and promote the major notion that the artists are not only representing Hopkins, but representing the good and humanity of the world.”
Senior Class President Deepak Gupta ’18 said, “The Class Banner showcased all the incredible talents and uniqueness that could be found within our grade.” Senior Student Council Representative Andrew Roberge ’18 agreed that the banner depicted the best qualities of the Class of 2018 and said, “I feel like our class has brought forth a lot of positive social change and I hope our banner commemorates us as that.”
The Class of 2018’s senior banner joined more almost eight decades worth of banners displayed all around campus, each example illustrating the legacy of that class and the history of that year. Ziou mentioned the history of the banners, saying, “It is nearly impossible to forget about the banner from 2002 composed of individual portraits of each student in the grade. Even recently, the 2010 banner from the 350th celebration is full of vibrant colors and fireworks, while the idea for the 2012 banner was centered around global warming.” In order to keep track of the years of banners, Peters proposed a “‘key’ that would enable us to locate the photos of the banners easily on campus so that when an alum from the Class of  wants to see their banner, we can tell them exactly where it is.”
Anticipation was high on Prize Day when the Senior Banner was revealed to the entire Hopkins Community.