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From left, Kaitlin Short ’17 and Kayla LaVoice ’17, in front of the mural shortly after its completion.

Capstone Course Leads to Art Mural on Campus

05/24/17

Throughout her time at MCLA, Kaitlin Short ’17 of East Longmeadow, Mass., never thought much about a wall she frequently passed on her way from the campus quadrangle to the Campus Center. Now, as she walks by the side of the building, near the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the Center’s entrance, she’s excited to see the transformation that she and Kayla LaVoice ’17 of Springfield, Mass., spearheaded as part of their “Service Leadership Capstone” course.

That course’s instructor, Spencer Moser, director of MCLA’s Center for Service and Leadership, came up with the idea for an art mural on campus. “He mentioned that he’s wanted one for years but had no idea how to go about it,” Short explained.

“Kayla and I went in unknowing who to talk to and what to do,” she continued. However, after meeting with staff in Student Affairs, “everything started to fall into place.”

Although the mural now is a favorite spot on campus among many students, it almost didn’t happen. The mural was one of about 10 options the class decided to advance from ideas to actual projects.

Initially, the community art mural project proposal wasn’t getting enough votes from the class.

“I really wanted the mural. I honestly believed our school needed something like this, at exactly this moment. I fought hard, and was able to convince Kayla and our professor to do this. Without Kayla willing to jump on board with me, the art mural wouldn’t have happened,” said Short, who recently graduated with her degree in business administration.

LaVoice, who received her bachelor’s degree in math earlier this month, recalled Short’s passion for taking on the project, “… so passionate that she convinced me to join her in making it possible. We then took the idea of an art mural and made it our own, coming up with the idea to make it a Community Project, organized by us but driven by the MCLA community.”

Once approved, the project moved quickly. “We started working on it the week after spring break and painted it the weekend of April 22nd, so the whole project took about two months from start to finish,” LaVoice said.

Short and LaVoice surveyed students, faculty and staff, to determine the most popular ideas for the mural’s design. From those ideas, Halie Smith ’18, an art major from Spencer, Mass., created three different designs, and the campus voted on the final two designs approved by the College. In total, nearly 360 voted to determine the winning design.

They wanted to put the mural in a central location that people would see on a daily basis, and a Campus Center wall was at the top of their list of potential places. “Tours and prospective students would see this mural, learn how it was done, and maybe be more interested in the idea of doing something like this as well,” Short said.

The most astonishing part of the project, according to Short, was the day the art mural was painted, when more than 150 people showed up to help. “I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support from so many wonderful people.”

“I never noticed how blank the walls of the MCLA campus were until I started this project,” LaVoice said. “Now as I walk through campus all I can think about is what wall should be next, and how cool it would be to have a mural here or there.”