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MSU Art Students Create Mural for East Lansing

student mural in East Lansing

A Michigan State University Department of Art, Art History and Design class project is now on permanent display in downtown East Lansing.

The Public Art: Understanding and Practice class, taught by Ben Duke, associate professor of studio art, created an 8.6-by-15 mural over the summer as part of East Lansing’s beautification project.

Located in the Grove Street Alley, the student-created public art mural, titled, “A Colorful Melange: We All Belong Here,” consists of vibrant colors, bold lines, transitional patterns and complex figures with a focus on socioeconomic, ethnic, age and gender diversity, as a tribute to East Lansing’s strong history of inclusionary policies and the city’s continual growth toward acceptance and tolerance.

Eight students did all the work, from conceptualizing the theme, researching image sources, developing and presenting a professional public art proposal, to realizing their vision by painting the mural.

“It was an honor to witness the eight artists who took on the challenge of this project, developing a sense of camaraderie and community throughout the creative process,” Duke said. “They truly worked together as a team to make a mural celebrating East Lansing. I think their hard work exemplifies the best of what community building can be and I look forward to seeing them develop their art.”

The student artists who worked on the mural include Salvador Carrillo, studio art junior; Summer Rain Dawdy-Allen, studio art senior; Cami Ernst, apparel and textile design sophomore; Leila Michelle Malekadeli, studio art senior; Ciera Marie Joy Mckay, studio art senior; Peter James Shutt, studio art junior; Richard Aaron Tanner, studio art junior; and Alyssa Mary Thornton, studio art senior.

“Within our regular art classes, how we work and create is very individual, so I was interested to see how a group of very individual artists would come together to make a collective piece,” Thornton said. “I wanted to see how a group as passionate as this could come together to create the mural.”

Prior to creating the mural, the class traveled to New York City, Grand Rapids and Detroit to view significant pieces of public art on a week-long study away program created specifically for the course. The experience provided students with an opportunity to engage with public works of art in a range of venues, and then put their newly acquired knowledge and understanding into creative practice.

“Being able to immerse myself in the design of this mural that expresses the ideals and views of the community is meaningful,” Tanner said. “Having it on display for everyone in East Lansing to see is incredible.”

The mural was supported by the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority, or DDA, as a continuation of the 2016 East Lansing Artist Alleys placemaking project. As part of that project, “The Spirit of East Lansing: Sounds from the Streets” public art mural by local artist Julian Van Dyke was installed in the Grove Street Alley last year.

The new student-created mural has been installed next to Van Dyke’s mural, creating an artful passageway for pedestrians traveling between the Grove Street Garage and Ann Street Plaza.

“This student-created mural is a great addition to our growing public art offerings in downtown East Lansing,” said Peter Dewan, DDA chair. “This project was unique in that it drew on the talent of up-and-coming MSU student artists and helped to further connect them to the community. I know I speak on behalf of the entire DDA when I say it was an honor to support them in their creative endeavors.”

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