Pieces of a portrait

Christina Stavale

Community remembers MLK Jr. with creation of gumball mural

CHECK OUT photos of the Gumball mural

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and 14,000 gumballs may seem to have little in common, but yesterday, about 100 people drew a connection.

People young and old created a mural of King and his wife out of these brightly colored gumballs at the King Kennedy Community Center in Ravenna.

The project began with the gumballs sitting in bowls, separated by color, but the end result was a 48-square-foot mural creating a lifelike portrait of the young-looking couple. Blacks and whites alike helped to build the mural, coming together in a way that showed each person can contribute to a larger goal.

“It’s more than just a racial thing,” said Kayla McDonald, a Kent State graduate who attended the program as a community service outreach. “Everyone’s working together — helping their neighbor out. That’s what King’s legacy was.”

That was Franz Spohn’s goal in putting the project together. The art professor from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania said he’s created about 60 of these types of murals, and every time, he is struck by the sense of community it takes to put the project together.

“The cost of these gumballs is a penny, maybe, but the community working together is invaluable,” he said. “It’s very magical to me. It transforms something that is everyday into something unique and special.”

Arlyne Habeeb, director of community and outreach services in the Community Action Council of Portage County, began the event by speaking about creating a sense of purpose for young people.

She said today’s generation sometimes has a hard time grasping concepts of responsibility, commitment and faith because so many things are just handed to them.

“This event is about bringing everyone from all walks of life together to create a sense of purpose — something that young people lack,” she said.

She encouraged attendees to judge others by character, rather than skin color, and to take a personal inventory of themselves.

“It’s not enough that we’ve just achieved some equality,” she said. “There are still issues beyond racism.”

George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies and advisory board member of the center, said the center puts on an event like this every year to honor King through artwork.

Each year on Martin Luther King Day, community members work together to create a piece of art depicting King.

“What we try to do is bring together the message of the historical legacy, along with art projects that embody the history,” he said.

The goal, he said, is to make the holiday more than just a day off, challenging youth to get involved and educated.

Junior marketing major Ondia Butler said she was struck by the outcome.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “This was everybody’s day off, but everybody came, black and white.”

The mural took only about an hour to finish, but the finished project will hang in the King Kennedy Community Center — a symbol of what people working together can do.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].