Over the last couple of months, the Town of Carrboro has enlisted the help of four local high school student artists to help design and create two murals that will be installed in the newly opened Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Each of the four students submitted a sketch for the mural to the Carrboro Town Council, who then used aspects of each of the children’s work to inspire the final creation. The students are in the process of painting the piece with local artists Michael Brown and Livian Kennedy.
“I think there is a lot of power that comes in the different ages of people. I think we are living in a time when even high schoolers, even middle schoolers are public figures," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said she saw the choice to include children in the murals' creation as conveying a broader message of child empowerment.
“I think we want to emphasize that it is a power, that it is an option for any age, that you can be politically and socially active and that you can fight for what sentiments you really care about," she said. "I think including the next generation in the artwork itself gets them one step closer to that they have ownership over the mural itself.”
Wendell Rodgers, facilities administrator for the Town of Carrboro, said the mural will serve to bring the voices and perspectives of the community into the park itself. He said the choice of using local students gives the community a leading role in their park.
At the same time, he hoped the park would serve to honor King's legacy and give back to the next generation of Carrboro.
“We hope that people come and enjoy the park, but at the same time realize that the things he stood for are still powerful today," he said. "We hope it to be a teaching tool for young kids when they come with their parents and caregivers.”
Hannah Ingham, one of the four student artists, said her role in creating the mural taught her to work with others and become more involved within her community. She said her design was inspired by King’s belief in the unity of all people. She said although King is known for his work in the civil rights movement, he fought for the rights and unity of all people, something she sees as a key value of Carrboro.
“My sketch was a group of people of different colors and backgrounds coming together as one, and I thought that really represented our community of Carrboro because we are many different people,” she said.
Ingham said she believes the inclusion of her and other students’ perspectives within the murals' design will allow King’s message to be conveyed more effectively to the children who will use the space.
“I think it helps us too because we get to learn about MLK and what he did," she said. "I learned a lot since I have been working with them, and we just get to learn more about him, we get to spread his ideas, and we can go out into the world and spread them ourselves through our art. The community can learn through our art too.”
Another student artist, Lily Reeves, said she feels the project empowers the youth of Carrboro.
“Even if you're young, in your community, you can still do something great to help, you can make an impact, you can help to inspire others even if you're young,” she said.
Having grown up in Carrboro, Reeves said she was drawn to the idea of being a part of something that would live on within her own community. She said the work of this project has not only helped her artistically, but will have an impact on her connection with her community into the future.
“I feel like now that I have something in the park that I helped create and worked on for a long amount of time — I put my effort into it, I helped design it, I painted it with other students — it’s going to be something that I am going to come back to in the town I grew up in and look at this mural, and realize I was a part of creating this,” she said.
Ingham said this experience will continue to inspire her artistic work.
“I really hope I can continue doing stuff like this, even if it’s just for the community," she said. "Spreading positive ideas, and things like MLK did in the future."
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