East Lansing honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with art scholarship contest

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Graphic with information on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art Scholarship contest

Justice Seay

East Lansing community members are invited to submit art pieces for a scholarship contest honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The city of East Lansing is committed to equity and dismantling systems that are oppressive, especially within our community, and one of the ways in which it does that is by partnering with community stakeholders who are doing meaningful work in difficult areas,” said Karla Forrest-Hewitt, East Lansing Community Events specialist. “The MLK Commission has been a long-standing partner with the city of East Lansing.”

The contest, held by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan in partnership with the city, asks contestants to create an art piece that relates to an annually chosen theme.

“Part of us being able to tell the story of Dr. King and the legacy he left us is being able to reach out to broad sections of our community, whether they’re students, clergy, business folk, young people, old people,” said Elaine Hardy, MLK Commission chairperson and East Lansing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion director. “The art contest is a way for us to reach out to the youth of our community. Hosting an art contest is a way we can hear different perspectives, a different kind of voice, about whatever theme we’ve asked them to create their art around.”

This year’s theme is a quote from King: “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

“[The themes] are expressed by commissioners based on their interpretation or belief of what is happening in the world at that moment,” Hardy said. “There was a consensus that we needed to start talking about coming together as humans, as brothers. It was a quote chosen and voted on by us. I think it’s a quote that is fitting for the times.”

The contest is accepting any original work created in the past year, accompanied by a 250-word narrative explaining the piece’s relationship to social justice and inequity. Submissions can be created in whichever medium the artist chooses — 2D, 3D, photography, digital and mixed-media pieces are all welcome, according to Forrest-Hewitt.

“There’s something that is very amazing about artwork,” Forrest-Hewitt said. “It’s visual, it appeals to your senses and it’s very moving. It doesn’t matter your age or ability. You can deal with hard topics and communicate a lot more things through art in so few words, or no words at all.”

Contestant categories are separated by age: sixth grade to eighth grade, ninth grade to 12th grade, and open adult. Student categories award $500 to grand prize winners, while the adult category awards $1,000.

“Art brings awareness to different areas of our community, and the earlier we bring that awareness, that consciousness, to young people especially, it makes a big difference on who they become when they’re older,” Forrest-Hewitt said. “Being aware of these social issues from an early age makes you able to become partners in justice, so to speak.”

Submissions are due by midnight on April 10 on the Commission’s website. For more information, contact Forrest-Hewitt at mlkartcontest2@gmail.com.

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