New Mural a Campus-Community Partnership

June 28, 2016

A collaboration of Emporia State art students and the Emporia Police Department is a visual reminder of the relationship between the community and law enforcement.

A group of art students at the university with Associate Professor Derek Wilkinson created a mural for the police department — the sole focus of a two-week summer course designed after Police Chief Scott Cronk approached the ESU art department about the project.

“We decided this way would be a really good opportunity for students to get credit hours and also get a hands-on experience doing a mural project,” Wilkinson said. “We wouldn’t have had time to add this project onto the semester schedule.”

The class met from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for two weeks. The first week was spent creating the mural concept with particular input from Cronk who, with Sgt. Lisa Sage, visited the class at the start of Day 1. The officers shared words and phrases they would like to as inspiration.

“They used the terms ‘love,’ ‘serve,’ ‘protect’ and ‘respect,’” Wilkinson said. “Terms that describe police officers’ roles in the community and how they should act in the community. Chief Cronk added to that ‘see no color’ and asked to just emphasize how they should treat everyone equally regardless of race and represent the LGBTQ community.”

That same day, the students began sketching. By the end of the week, individual ideas had been presented, discussed, debated and a final design was agreed upon.

On the Monday of Week 2, the class moved to the Emporia Police Department where the mural would be painted on a hallway wall near Investigations and other offices. The students turned an adjacent conference room into their studio. Containers of acrylic paints in primary and secondary colors covered tables along with cups and plates used to mix the paints into the desired colors.

In the hallway, a grid was drawn on the wall and the design was transferred square by square. Then the painting began.

“I wanted to experience painting on the walls,” said graphic design major Shahad Ashi about why she took the class. “It’s not an opportunity you get all the time.”

Indeed, Ashi was unable to work on an earlier mural on the back of Mulready’s Pub in downtown Emporia — another collaboration with ESU students and community members. That project conflicted with Ashi’s finals.

Still, painting wasn’t easy. Just like homeowners painting walls and needing at least two coats, the entire mural was painted out then painted again to solidify colors and ensure edges between them were crisp.

“I worked on painting the rainbow,” said Ashi, who came to ESU from Saudi Arabia. “But someone came after me and did it again.”

The focal point of the mural is two hands holding a sunflower. The bottom hand is painted blue to represent police officers. The second hand is painted with a patchwork of different skin tones representing the community.

At the left side of the mural are two eyes with a rainbow pouring out of one. The eyes were Jordan Robinson’s idea.

“The idea of the eyes and one of them being blind shows the aspect of ‘see no color,’” explained Robinson, a graphic design major from Topeka.

The rainbow flows over the silhouette of a police officer and turns into a vibrant Kansas sunset behind the verdant Flint Hills with the statue of Justice standing sentry. And the artists — Jeffrey Bollman, Sloane Dyer, Kaitlyn Ekart, Sadie Hutchison, Sarah Richardson, Mercedes Silvey, Thuong Tran, along with Ashi, Robinson and Wilkinson — included a surprise. Each drew hornets, symbolizing the ESU contribution, with their initials included.

“This is so much more than we ever imagined,” said Cronk. “It’s beautiful.”

Students also painted the opposite wall of the hallway with a wide band of black with a thin blue line in the middle. Above the color they lettered “Emporia Police Department.” The wall will be used to hang framed photos of officers working out in the field, Sage said.

Although the mural is in a restricted area of the department, Sage said that plenty of people will be able to enjoy it.

“It’s beside Investigations and we do have people in and out of there — witnesses, victims, suspects. We also do a lot of tours with children and adults. 

“Members of the public are welcome to come here and see the mural.”

Anyone wanting to see the finished mural can stop at the Emporia Police Department weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or by appointment.


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