Hostelling International Chicago

Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Mural Competition

2012 Gallery

1st Place Prize Winner

Awarded $300

Chanel C. Thomas

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’13

I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to achieve peace and why it seems so unrealistic in today’s society. Of course, peace is the simplest solution to issues amongst people and is predominately what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought to achieve. The answer to peace is obvious: we just need to sonsistently practice a little human dignity and compassion, which is an essential part of all individuals. With those efforts at hand, I also wanted my mural to reflect a lot upon my own experience growing up and how I have recently been introduced to this unfamiliar but diverse community of cultures while in college. I feel that even today there is so much separation of our communities and schools that often many people are left alienated from other cultures and understanding a variety of people and their situations or life styles. This really saddens me, because it feels like I’ve been missing out on other areas of life and ways of thinking. Entering college was like a cultural shock to me, all I knew was Black and I sometimes find it difficult to socialize because of the lack of integration. My mural is basically a visual summary of that desire I have for more communities and school districts to become integrated, so that people can have the opportunity to obtain a more well-rounded view of life. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took those first steps to end segregation, but still in certain aspects segregation has not truly ended and I hope this mural can promote further steps down the pathway to official peace and equality.

2nd Place Prize Winner

 Awarded $200

Marc Socie

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’13

My  idea was to represent Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and accomplishments without falling into common and cliche representation of his phyiscal appearance. The main interesting thing about him, in my opinion, was his capacity to gather people, create major moments in history and, with the events that occurred during those protests, putting into light inequalities that existsed and still exist nowadays.

I decided to use thing Japanese paper, letting the light go through it so the installation wuold change throughout the day, to create a human shape based on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s figure. I drew on this paper the key events that really moved me and that are linked to the struggle for civil rights. Parts are from the majore Peace Protest, the March on Washington, Robert Kennedy’s speech, Selma to Montogmery marches. But there area also other elements like the Rosa Parks’ bus, violent fights during the protests and images of the Ku Klux Klan.

During all my creation process I was really inspired by an extract from the sermon “The Birth of a New Nation,” which is painted around the figure.

Being an international exchange student from France and as a person of color myself, I’m very sensitive to the life and story of Dr. King. The issues and taboos he fought agains are not different than the ones that existed and reamin nowadays in my home country. My challenge with the “Paper Thin” installation was really to show how just one human being, being as fragile as paper like anybody, can change the face of history with a vision.

3rd Place Prize Winner

Awarded $100

Ellie Jung

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’11 

Through this mural project, I would like to address the equality of human rights, for which Martin Luther King, Jr. fought. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…” This famous “I Have A Dream” speech, given on August 28, 1963, reached the hearts of many. He fought to achieve equality for all people, of any skin color. However, to this day, skin color still brings many issues because by quick judgement, people still attempt to define an individual without any background knowledge. What is the meaning of skin color for us now?

What comes to your mind when you think the words “sking color?” The woven skin color fabric image aims to represent society. If you look carefully, you can realize that the thread colors are various skin tones. The threads that I drew with icing are reminiscent of individuals in society and the colors of thread represent various races. One small thread cannot weave an entire cloth. And it is impossible to weave a cloth with trangled threads. We must learn to appreciate and incorporate all the different threads in order to weave a beautiful cloth.

Connect Force

A program of Alternatives, Inc.

This piece is a collaborative production by the youth and mentors from the nonprofit organization Connect Force. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his liberating general assembly actions that promoted change, world peace and human rights inspired the concept. The piece depicts phrases chosen by the students at Connect Force, such as “Action for the community,” “We the People,” “Push the Movement,” and “For a Better World.”

Seonjoo Cho

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’13

We need both white and black keys to make music. That is the reason for coexistence.

Jacqueline Renee Friedberg

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’12

We all have dreams. When we work together, we can make these dreams reality. This statement has been proven through the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers. His wods can still be heard and the actions we take today can still result in civil justice.

Ahyun Kim

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’12 

Water gives life to every living being. It spreads to all directions and reaches to every life form without any discrimination. This relationship between water and life resembles the strong will of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his influence on human rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. constantly worked for civil rights and never stopped. His incredibly hard work reaches to individuals all over the world today and event to the future. I wanted to emphasize these great influences of Martin Luther King, Jr. by painting him making a big stream. Finally, the mighty stream bonds everyone together as a whole.

Elcin Marasli

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ’13 

My project consists of multiple hand drawings in various expressive states, symbolizing the sufferings, hope and victory of a “handful of society” or “hands of the people” coming together for the progress and maintenance of justice. The overall mural is a symbolic, decorative and abstract form revealing a homogenous single drop of water at large, overlaid with drawings of hands in black, uniform stroke. When the morning sun directly hits the window, the animated brush strokes allow for a playful reflection of changing tones of the color blue. The labor-intensive layering of brush strokes also indicates the historical progression in the fight for justice as a timely endeavor.

The composition is divided into three sections, as is the actual phyical window surface. The bottom part includes a large-scale drawing of Martin Luther King’s hands connected in wishful position (note King’s ring to identify). King’s person endeavor in fighting for justice and equality is depicted in the expressivity of his hand gesture as a symbolic outreach from the personal to the public, where he lays ground for the fight for justice with his own hands, and opens it up for people to enliven his dream. The second (middle) section of the mural includes smaller-scale hands in giving and taking positions, representing society at large opening up to King’s ideas and taking them in. Finally, the third and top part of the mural consists of small-scale hands in positions of victory and strength, in this case closed fists, portraying justice at it’s victorious state.

In changing scale from small at the top to larger at the bottom, the image imitates a flowing motion of water, or a big drop / splash of water from the source to the basin. There are no power relations involved in the flow of justice. King is not only a giver but also a receiver, and the public at large is equally a source of opinions constantly flowing, in and out of King’s foundational basis, enlivening and transforming it. This is also to suggest that that “justice case roll like water” only in an environment of mutual exchange of ideas and understanding between King and sociey at large, with an equal strive for equal rights to each member of the society, a homogenous and uniform coexistence.

Ji Ha Park

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

We are basically different. We have different skin color, gender, ethnicity, age and so on. We also live in different situations in this world. However, we are all the same human beings. There is no question. However, in reality we still discriminate against the visible differences. Nevertheless, I believe that it can be changed little by little. My message of this painting is “hope.” We should not forget the message by Dr. King, all beings are equal, the same.

Skech 185 / Willie MacIntyre & Louder Than A Bomb Poets

Chicago Young Authors

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s well-known phrase – “until justice rolls down like waters” – has the same rhetorical power as it did August 28, 1963, but the words themselves sound different after more than 50 years, especially when spoken from the mouths of Chicago’s young people. Today, Chicago is known as the most racially segregated city in the United States. Chicago Speaks presents the sounds of a segregated city in conversation. We are asking, “what does integration sound like?”

This mural project is a fusion of Chicago-based histories in poetry and imagery from Louder Than A Bomb poets to explore the conflation of integration and diversity. As a text based mural, coupled with images of Chicago’s youth, the work is similar to a 21st Century Greek Chourus resounding in multi-voice narratives. This is what Chicago sounds like!


April Son, Zebadiah Arrington & Suhyung Go

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

We’ve been kept inside of walls from fears that came when communication failed. Looking through the windows, we’ve missed a lot of chances. We’ve made enough mistakes every time we’ve tried to reach out further.

However, the time to go out always comes back just like the hands on clocks circle around. It’s time to step back from the window and walk toward the doors again. We believe this is the message through the history of struggling for humanity, which Martin Luther King, Jr. also believed in.

Three individuals stand together in front of Window to put this together spontaneously for dreaming a perfection of communication. This piece is inviting and welcoming the viewers not only to appreciate it, but also to step back and look outside of the window. Black and White means a fairness of the difference. Every individual is as important as the next one. And everything has existed by sharing things, not dividing in mathematics. The unify and connectivity of biological geometry that is within all of us is a key symbol of understanding the equality for all.


James Teague & Cheryl Thomas

Hostelling International Chicago staff

At some point in life we decide what’s next for us! For some, it’s not always a conscious choice. For others, it’s not a choice that we make as much as it is made for us. Yet still, for some it is written in the stars for us and we simply do our best to live up to that.

For Dr. King, his path was, we believe, both focused and incidental. You see the picture of him during what I feel is in contemplation early in his life. Possibly a moment when fate intervened and his destiny was revealed to him? The yellow foot prints represent his fear of this dark path, and that of those who knew and supported him. The process of not knowing what is ahead of him, but knowing he must journey onward.

The red foot prints represent his commitment and resolve to make this world a better place for all and the price of his pursuit – his life. With many threats to his life and that of his family and his friends being murdered around him – he did not stop. Even in death.

Finally, his journey culminates at his final and lasting resting place – hoping that in death he can still impact life. And he has!

Many people that we know can attest to the ideology of the title of the window…the poor kid who makes it out of “the ‘hood” to play pro-ball; the driven student who makes it to Harvard to receive his new law degree; the lost child who finds her fame and focus in front of an audience that she connects with. Life is about our commitment to being more, doing more, having more – it is about the journey. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s journey was to follow the path on which he believed that GOD had placed him.

What is your journey? Where will it lead you? Will it end at your death? Focus, drive, commitment is what gets that one foot in front of the other. Will it lead you to your destiny?

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