Student artwork honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and civil rights leaders

Student artwork honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Civil Rights leaders
Freshman Skye Callaway won the MLK Art Competition.
Photo by Cristian Torres/Strategic Communications 

He walked so that those following behind could run.  

That was George Mason University freshman Skye Callaway’s powerful message with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in mind behind her winning submission in this year’s MLK Art Competition. Winners of the competition, which was sponsored by the Center for Culture, Equity and Empowerment, were announced during the MLK Evening of Reflection on Jan. 30. 

“Being a student and an activist, I realized that without Martin Luther King, we wouldn’t really know a lot about peaceful protests and the right things to do,” said Callaway, an integrative studies major from Long Island, New York. “We are the next generation of activists, but he really paved the way for what we do.” 

Callaway dubbed her work “The Blueprint” and used blue ink as a reference to the blueprint left by Dr. King that she aimed to celebrate in her artwork. 

“I wanted to focus on how all the division, discrimination, and more happening right now has led to a new age of protesters and ‘freedom fighters,’ ” she said in the artist’s statement about her work. “And how we now know what path to follow because MLK was the blueprint. He walked so we can run.” 

Anna Simakova, a freshman art and visual technology major originally from Moscow and now living in Vienna, Virginia, was the contest’s runner-up with her painting, “On the Edge of the World.” The painting depicts a little girl holding a balloon, symbolizing endless possibilities. 

“I focused my attention on the central object,” Simakova said, “highlighting that the girl enters this life stage alone and the whole universe is open for her. She is small, fragile and as light as a balloon, but she fearlessly pursues her dream.” 

panelists on stage for event
Mason's annual MLK Evening of Reflection was held this year on January 30. Photo by DeRon Rockingham/Creative Services

Acknowledging that activism takes many forms, including art, the Center for Culture, Equity and Empowerment put out a call for illustrators, painters, and graphic designers of all backgrounds wishing to have their works displayed during the MLK Evening of Reflection, which also included a panel discussion on ways to help in the fight for justice.

“Often forgotten is the importance of visual art in the realm of activism," said Caroline Jacques, assistant director of the Center for Culture, Equity and Empowerment. "Throughout history, we’ve seen the power of art and how it can evoke many different emotions, from pain to pride. This year, we wanted to remind the Mason Nation of the relevance of this medium in the continuous fight for justice.”

Artists were asked to speak to the theme of this year’s MLK Remembrance events of “Lighting the Pathway: Renewing, Reviving, Restoring and Remembering the Dream.” Artists submitting work were asked to speak to what the theme meant to them and the ways that Dr. King has inspired people to find their path in the fight for social justice, equity and access for all people. 

During the Evening of Reflection, event participants voted on the artwork, and the results were announced near the end of the event.

See more student art entries.