For Aura Ware, a sophomore from Memphis Tenn., Albion is more than just the place she’ll earn her English and Psychology degrees. It’s her second home, and she wants to give back.
“I don’t want to just get my degree and leave. I want to impact the community, and I want [community members] to be proud of Albion,” said Ware. “I know some of them, deep down inside, are proud of Albion, but they don’t really have anything to point their fingers to and say, ‘Oh yeah I really love that, like that’s Albion.’”
The Ford Institute’s introduction to public service class got her thinking about ways to improve the town of Albion.
“I wanted to illustrate the rich history of Albion through murals throughout the town,” said Ware. “I read this book that had similar projects. The whole point of the projects was to add color pop to the city and also bring tourism. And I figured that’s what Albion needs, like tourists and color, just things that make people feel pride in the town. That’s where [the idea] was birthed.”
Art professor Michael Dixon agreed that the town of Albion would benefit from a mural project.
“I think public art and these kinds of things make the city a better place to be in and can be an attraction. I think Albion would be a perfect place for this kind of project,” said Dixon. “There’s lots of space. [Albion is] in this developing stage, so it’s a good time to put a mural up.”
Ware plans to have various murals put up in places such as Holland Park, downtown, and other streets and neighborhoods. Dixon expanded on the importance of varying locations throughout Albion so that the project has a broader reach and greater impact on people.
“I think [that it’s] important to try to diversify the locations as much as possible,” said Dixon. “Like most places, there are some pockets that don’t necessarily interact much. So, I think it’s important in a small town like this to think about everyone.”
Although Ware is not a visual artist herself, she is working with other students and community members, including community leader Dr. Harry Bonner, to bring this project to life.
The team envisions historical images making up the murals, such as the great migration of African workers from the South to the North, while also relating it to community members.
“I kind of want the mural to be interactive, in a way, so everybody can see themselves in it and they can kind of interpret it in an educational way at the same time,” said Ware.
The group’s focus on the intersection of history and Albion led them to name the project after Professor Wes Dick.
“It was just kind of like the Historic Mural Project at first and we figured that Wes Dick, he is history in a sense. He’s lived it. He’s teaching it. He’s constantly learning more about it. So what better person to choose to dedicate this to or to name it after,” said Ware.
Ware and her team plan to get the project started by next semester and hope to finish it within the next couple years. The project has been a long time in the making, but Ware’s passion for community empowerment keeps her pushing onward.
“There were some times where I was like, ‘Is this project too big for me? Am I really going to get it done? Is it actually going to get started?’” said Ware. “So, perseverance is my main thing. I really want to get this done.”
Dixon commended Ware’s work as a classic example of the Albion College education.
“To get on the Albion College bandwagon, in the mission statement of the college, it says students will learn inside and outside the classroom,” said Dixon. “There’s resources [Aura] can tap into, there’s support, both within the community and the college.”