Graphic design students unveil mural honoring former Stillwater mayor
Thursday, May 4, 2023
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A semester’s worth of work was put on display in Stillwater’s Chris Salmon Plaza on May 1, with the unveiling of Oklahoma State University graphic design students’ mural “Building Sunshine.”
The mural — which highlights the life and work of former Stillwater mayor Christine Salmon — was designed by OSU freshman Carlee Roddy. Roddy worked with her fellow Visual Thinking Image and Surface 2D classmates to execute the design.
“It would have been a lot more boring without my classmates to help me both in the beginning when it came to brainstorming ideas and during the last days of painting,” said Roddy, who hails from Collinsville, Oklahoma.
During the unveiling presided over by current Stillwater mayor Will Joyce, Roddy explained elements of her abstract design that were meant to represent Salmon’s architectural and interior design career, as well as her accessibility advocacy work.
“I struggled with how to depict Chris’ passion for supporting communities with disabilities, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” Roddy said, specifically pointing out shapes on the right side of the mural that represent a deconstructed wheelchair. “I want people to look at the mural and get to know Chris through it. Not just that she was a mayor, but her bright personality that she poured into her work and eventually into Stillwater as a whole.”
Kate Kinder, a Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History teaching assistant professor, began the mural project with her classes after being approached by the Prairie Arts Center and the City of Stillwater. Kinder’s students submitted 54 designs for consideration, which were narrowed down through rounds of voting by the students, Prairie Arts Center staff and City of Stillwater employees.
“I was surprised with how many different approaches to the project there were,” Kinder said. “We have a lot of students with different backgrounds, so it was inspiring to see them inject their own perspectives into the work.”
The final design was drawn out onto four large pieces of parachute cloth and completed with weather-proof outdoor paint. The morning of the mural unveiling, the pieces were adhered to the brick wall on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Main Street where it will remain on view to the public semi-permanently.
“I have the utmost confidence that even if the audience can’t understand each little detail of the work, they will enjoy it for its color and specificity to Stillwater,” Kinder said. “I hope Stillwater can appreciate the hard work my students put into the design and execution, as well as the unique dedication and skill it takes to create something like this.
“With abstract art, the secret is not to be intimidated by not knowing what it means, and allowing yourself to enjoy it for what you see in it. Art is meant to be interpreted, so that means there’s no real wrong reading of it.”