Good Life

New themes shape this year’s MLK observation at Penn State

Addie Ruston, a senior in Penn State’s graphic design program, drew heavily on images in the news and media to create the poster for the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week. This year’s theme is “Deconstructing the Dream: At Whose Expense?”
Addie Ruston, a senior in Penn State’s graphic design program, drew heavily on images in the news and media to create the poster for the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week. This year’s theme is “Deconstructing the Dream: At Whose Expense?” Poster provided

There’s a small gallery located up on the second floor of Penn State’s HUB–Robeson Center. Actually it’s more like a hallway.

But it does have art. Lots and lots of art thanks to the many posters expounding the many themes that have been associated with the many weeks Penn State has devoted to commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.

The latest addition is a poster by Addie Ruston, a senior in the school’s graphic design program who drew heavily on images in the news and media to visualize this year’s theme “Deconstructing the Dream: At Whose Expense?”

Ruston’s core visual was a photograph of King’s 1963 march on Washington. In her rendition, that image is cracked and fraying, juxtaposing hope and idealism with a reality that has fallen short of the civil rights leader’s lofty ambitions.

“I researched current issues that we see on the news every day and topics that Martin Luther King Jr. would most definitely have stood up for today, and from there, the images took on their own voices in the final design,” Ruston said.

Symone McCollum is the executive director of this year’s commemoration committee, which crafted the “Deconstructing the Dream” theme after a summer reviewing King’s collected writings.

Recent events have also carried some weight.

“This past year has been tragic, especially for communities of color. We kept the fears, messages and hopes from those communities — as people who are hurting, too — in our minds as we drafted a theme that spoke to current times but related directly to Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech,” McCollum said.

Events spread throughout the 33rd annual MLK Jr. Commemoration Week at Penn State will include Monday’s annual Day of Service, an encore of last year’s “Silence Interrupted” talent showcase and a keynote speech by comedian and radio personality Amanda Seales.

“Hopefully the designated week will lead to long-term dialogues that provide a better understanding of, but not limited to, Dr. King’s message, who he was talking about and if these things are distant from what we experience today,” McCollum said.

If anyone can understand those sentiments, it’s Ruston. Surmising an entire theme — a two-pronged one, no less — on paper takes some doing and if you don’t catch her drift at first glance, then maybe that’s OK.

“Like any poster design, I wanted the final design to invoke a strong feeling in the viewer and to have a prominent voice. Whether that feeling be outrage or empathy, the viewer should feel something,” Ruston said.

For a complete schedule of commemoration week events, visit mlk.psu.edu.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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