EMU unity mural to be designed by collaboration of local artists

In a collaborative effort to visually illustrate an educational and inclusive environment on Eastern Michigan University's campus, members of the EMU and Ypsilanti community are designing and painting a unity mural on Monday, Jan. 16.

Intentionally planned to be painted on Martin Luther King Day, the mural is a timeline of the struggles and triumphs in the face of adversity at EMU. The location of the mural has yet to be determined, but possible locations to paint the mural include the Student Center, Rec IM or Ford Hall. The design for the mural is segmented into three parts:

  • Past cultural struggles and unification of the EMU community from the year 1849 to 1999
  • Current differences and/or humanitarian monuments of the EMU community from the year 2000 to the present date
  • Future visions, goals and dreams to give guidance to future generations beyond the present date

Because students at EMU only attend the university for a few years they may not be aware of its history, which is something that the unity mural aims to change with submissions for the "past" element.

"When you research the past, there's always going to be an element where it creates conflict and controversy," said Steven Kwasny, co-organizer of the unity mural. "At the same time, it also gives the ability to learn and be more involved; usually people who care about history tend to be more involved."

Kwasny also said that members of the EMU community must be reminded of their past to understand how they reached the present, cherishing both to understand how they can create a better future.

"It's nice to have them understand that past students have gone through it to or something similar and to try to unite under that umbrella," Kwasny said. "It would be nice after months of preparation, talking and endless meetings to bring people together under this understanding of our history, something to embrace and improve on."

Kwasny noted that the main message of the mural is to speak out against the racial graffiti incidents on campus and to show students that they aren't alone.

"There is two general main messages [of the mural]; the first main message is what we truly feel," Kwasny said. "It's trying to show that most people on campus don't believe in Alt-Right ideology and things of that nature."

After the initial racial graffiti incident on campus on Sept. 20 Kwasny and his friends created chalk drawings of peace and love, engaging with students outside of the Student Center. Many of the students that they talked to were afraid for their safety because of the racial graffiti and Kwasny noted that students shouldn't feel that way in their first few weeks back to college, especially for college freshman.

The other message is that you're not alone," Kwasny said. "There has always been some kind of social struggle; mostly in human history we've always overcomed and done well and done our best we can. We want to just try and leave something that is never complete. Good art is never complete they say; just keep on building on it and just keeping thinking about it."

Each section of the mural will be four feet tall and one or two feet wide; ideally there will be 55 sections of the mural with one section painted per designer. All designers attending EMU or living in the Ypsilanti area are invited to submit their ideas for approval by the unity mural committee.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, Dec. 18 and unity mural submissions can be emailed to Steven Kwasny at skwasny1@emich.edu. Dr. Cam McComb, assistant professor of art education at EMU, will be leading the design team and designers can volunteer by emailing Dr. McComb at cmccomb@emich.edu.

An Outreach Day to advocate for the unity mural project will also be held on the first floor of the Student Center between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Ypsilanti community and EMU leaders will be speaking at the event at the following times:

  • 10 a.m. Michelle Deatrick - Washtenaw County commissioner
  • 11 a.m. Monica Ross-Williams, Ypsilanti Township trustee
  • 12. p.m. Lois Richardson, councilmember of Ypsilanti
  • 1 p.m. Robin Stevens, Washtenaw County Public Defender's Office
  • 2 p.m. Anne Brown, councilmember of Ypsilanti
  • 3 p.m. Cheryl Farmer, former mayor of Ypsilanti

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