This story originally appeared in SDSU NewsCenter on Aug. 17, 2012.
Overlooking the eastbound lanes of highway 94, stands a 20-foot high and 225-foot long symbol of Martin Luther King Jr.’s passionate and dynamic call for non-violence and equality.
The vibrant mural was brought to life by the minds and hands of San Diego State University Art and Design faculty Philip Matzigkeit and Neil Shigley. Also, Camille Johnston, a graduate student at SDSU, created digital art for the mural.
“MLK had an extraordinary vision, and through his work created a beloved community,” said Matzigkeit, lead artist of the mural. “I wanted to conduct things to emulate that and to create this sense of community for all of San Diego and beyond.”
A dedication ceremony for the mural is scheduled for Oct. 20.
Equality through art
Deeply rooted in the mural is the diversity of the people involved in making it. Matzigkeit said the mural "breaks stereotypes" and serves as a living representation of King’s dream.
Matzigkeit, a white male, grew up in Africa, on a missionary camp.
"MLK was a dreamer.
We need more dreamers and my hope
is that people dream big."
“There’s a big influence in this art from African culture,” Matzigkeit said. “But you see the mural itself is a living representation of what our country has become, the whole message of Dr. King was to focus on a person’s character and not the color of their skin.
“Throughout history there is this tragedy of separation,” Matzigkeit continued. “People are separated by economics, by race, politics and religion. But art brings people together.”
About the mural
The mural highlights Martin Luther King Jr.’s dynamic character through three separate poses illustrating his leadership, powerful oratory and quiet inner spiritual nature.
Matzigkeit encourages people to not look for a defined meaning in the artwork but for people to develop their own interpretations.
“When we see this dynamic figure, maybe we become riveted to our better selves,” Matzigkeit said. “But the beauty of art is that everyone gets their own message. MLK was a dreamer, we need more dreamers and my hope is that people dream big.”
Adding music to art
At the Oct. 20 dedication event, SDSU music professor and jazz pianist, Richard Thompson will play an original composition to honor Dr. King. The addition of music to art, Thompson says keeps with the spirit of the Civil Rights movement.
“Quite a collection of melodies, or ‘freedom songs’ were regularly preformed as part of peaceful demonstrations,” Thompson said. “I plan to excerpt and set to music parts of his speeches and writings to create a tribute to the life and mind of this exceptional leader.”
Impacting the artists
“I have been an artist my entire life,” said Shigley, the portrait artist of the mural. “There is no project that I have worked on and probably none that I will that is more important than this.”
The mural is located on the east bound side of highway 94 near the Home Avenue exit, and sponsored by a federal grant secured six years ago by Caltrans.