Three days late, MU began its celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. on Wednesday with “The King Legacy on Art and Public Policy.” The university’s celebration of King, “The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on American Public Policy,” was supposed to be a weeklong series of events; however, this week’s snap of cold, ice and snow forced the cancellation of events on Sunday and Tuesday.
Wednesday’s panelists were Norree Boyd, executive director of the Missouri Arts Council; Marie Hunter from the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs; Teresa Unseld, former chairwoman of the art department at Winston-Salem State University; Jean Brueggenjohann, an MU professor of graphic design; and Eduardo Díaz, former director of cultural affairs for San Antonio.
Boyd said that King’s work during the civil rights movement opened the door for the celebration of diverse art. Before King fought for equality and civil rights, Eurocentric art received the lion’s share of attention and appreciation, she said.
After King, African-American art became validated and entered the mainstream, Boyd said. The newfound public appreciation paved the way for future minority artists such as poet Maya Angelou and film director Spike Lee. Díaz said it also led to wider recognition of Chicano and Latino artists.
Hunter talked about King’s impact on public art in Columbia — most notably, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial off the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail. Surrounded by a garden, eight triangular columns display King’s writings.
Hunter said the memorial represents King’s wish to bring all types of people together. It is designed for people to congregate around it. In fact, weddings are held at the memorial every year.
Another Columbia work that reflects King’s ideals is “Jamboree,” a sculpture located in front of the Boone County Courthouse. This artwork depicts five different species of animals playing music together. A plaque on it reads, “celebrating diversity in harmony.”