University Relations and Communications

Master's degree students' artwork brings focus to vision of MLK at MSU Billings

January 23, 2012



Hazel Todd, Office of Community Involvement, 896-5817
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Sam Harrington is a big fan of science fiction fantasy art, forays into the imagination of what might be. But never in his wildest dreams did he imagine a portrait of his to be the focus of a major initiative at Montana State University Billings. 


photo of students and mural

Nor did he and his fellow artist ever guess that it would help encourage action.


Harrington and fellow graduate student Jennifer Wood collaborated on a mural that become one of the focal points of the efforts of fellow students and dedicated staffers for last week’s “Power of One” week at MSU Billings. The week (which ran from Jan. 16-21 this year) is dedicated to the memory and living legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and encourages students to think of ways to serve others.


A few months ago, Hazel Todd, who works in the MSU Billings Office for Community Involvement, was thinking of a new way to give students a chance to contribute to the “Power of One” event. She thought a mural would be a perfect fit and contacted Wood.


Wood came up with the concept of using ripples in a pond to illustrate the kind of effect a person can make. Like King, she said, a dedication to service and action can impact others.


“One ripple, sent out in different directions, can turn into a tidal wave really,” Wood said. “When people get together with some coordination, they can complete a lot.”


The 41-year-old Wood, who is working on her master’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in art education, knew event organizers wanted to include an image of MLK on the mural, so she contacted Harrington.


Harrington, who is 25 and also working on an art-related master’s degree in secondary education, has developed an affinity for portraiture, even though his first love is of art of an otherworldly nature.


“I like science fiction and fantasy art, but lately have been doing landscapes and portraits,” the slender, quiet California native said. “Jen offered me the opportunity to do a portrait for this and I said I would.”


His black-and-white portrait of King is nestled in the bottom of the two-panel mural and surrounded by the Wood’s painting of bright and reflective rippling water. The artists left a white block-letter number 1 at the right of the artwork where people could sign their names. The signatures, she said, were personal commitments made on MLK Day to do service for someone else.


Todd, who made sure the mural was on display last week, said she was beyond impressed with the finished product.


“Since we started working on this project I thought it would be great to do a mural,” said Todd, who is the Campus Corps team leader and a graduate of MSU in Bozeman with a degree in family science. “The panels together look awesome.”


Last Friday, the artwork was on display in the SUB galleria, next to a “wall of hope” constructed by students. The wall was a listing of powerful and constructive words — opportunity, integrity, honesty, selflessness, service — to encourage a stronger community. 


Many students took that message to heart. On Saturday, more than 40 college students took part in a Service Saturday event at four group homes for area youth. 


Todd said the mural will find a lasting home in the Student Union Building as a reminder of the power of individuals to collaborate for positive goal.  One possibility is that will be framed and installed in the SUB coffee shop later this year.


“Power of One Week” is a tradition at MSU coordinated by a coalition of faculty, staff and students. Groups involved in planning include the Office of Community Involvement, the Residence Hall Association, the Office of American Indian Outreach and Diversity Center, the Student Activities Board, United Campus Ministries and Associated Students of Montana State University Billings.


For more information on Service Saturdays or other community involvement activities, contact Todd at 896-5817.


PHOTO ABOVE: Jennifer Wood, center, and Sam Harrington stand next to their collaborative mural done for the “Power of One” week at MSU Billings. Both are master’s degree students in the College of Education and have an emphasis in art. The mural will eventually find a lasting home at the Student Union Building.