The city of Mansfield held a ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 13, to unveil the new MLK mural in front of the community center. The unveiling was accompanied by a host of other festivities, including music by Joaquan Kinsey from UConn’s Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir and UConn’s Jazz Quartet. About 130 people attended according to Margaret Chatey, who is the Mansfield communications specialist and runs the Town of Mansfield Facebook page. She also said that there were multiple speakers including the master of ceremonies professor Glenn Mitoma, Mayor Toni Moran, Matt Conway, Mural Artist Emida Roller, professor Carlita Cotton and superintendent Kelly Lyman.
Ryan Aylesworth, the town manager of Mansfield, spoke on the event and specifically why the community center was chosen for such a mural.
“I think it was very important, as the name implies the Mansfield community center is a community center … It is a facility that we use to benefit so many people,” Aylesworth said via phone interview. “At the end of the day, because of its location and the high traffic, it was a perfect spot.”
Aylesworth continued with his description of the importance of public art and specifically why this mural is so important to Mansfield.
“I think that art is a wonderful medium for conveying all sorts of thoughts, feelings and emotions. One of things that makes this particular piece of art so special is the community took part in producing it … We had multiple painting days,” Aylesworth said. “While it is certainly an MLK mural, there is a very strong connection to the town of Mansfield and what Mansfield stands for.”
Aylesworth said that he hopes that this art sends a message to Mansfield residents to feel welcome in their community.
“I think it’s important because we have a lot of competing interests in our lives…and some people can feel like they are on an island. This art can make everyone feel welcome in our community,” said Aylesworth. “We are a diverse community…We have a large range of cultures and faiths. We want to send a clear signal to everyone that they are welcome and we cherish that diversity…This was a collaborative project, where a lot of different entities played different roles. It was a collaborative effort and a partnership, and that’s what we were proud of. It was a ‘it takes a village’ moment, and it takes a village to build a mural.”
Chatey described how the event went with the many speakers and musical guests, especially with the soloist of the event being Joaquan Kinsey.
“We invited the voices of freedom gospel choir to sing and they actually had a concert later that night, but their director suggested that Joquan would be a wonderful representative of their choir and he came and he actually kicked off the ceremony by performing the Black national anthem, and he had an amazing voice,” Chatey said.
Chatey went further to describe other speakers at the event and what impact they had on the ceremony.
“Other speakers included Dr. Carlita Cotton, she is very instrumental in an organization called core mansfield, so she offered some remarks. The keynote speaker was our superintendent Kelly Lyman, and then kelly was followed up by two young students from Mansfield middle school who spoke, and then the Mansfield middle school concert choir joined Joquin to lead the crowd in ‘We Shall Overcome,’ so that was wonderful.”Margaret Chatey, Mansfield communications specialist
Chatey then went on to talk about how the creation of the MLK mural was truly a community effort and how involved the community was in the mural’s construction.
“It was such a nice mix of music, of poignant words. The mural artist, named Emida Roller, talked about the input she received from the community because that was part of the project and how she interpreted to create the mural, so that was of course very meaningful to hear her interpretation of that. It was a nice combination of words and music and just great sentiment and wonderful community representation,” said Chatey.
Chatey said that the atmosphere of the event was celebratory and festive, with the music and speakers uplifting the community.
“It was certainly celebratory, and as I mentioned it was nice as people were gathering with the jazz group from UConn, kind of setting the tone, so as people were parking their cars and making their way over to the mural, there was this great festive air set off. I think that people were really enthusiastic and really grateful to hear the messages around why we brought the mural to Mansfield and the hope of what might come from that,” Chatey said.
Kim King, the 2022 Connecticut teacher of the year, recorded a video posted on the Town of Mansfield Facebook page describing what she thought the mural meant for the community and the importance of public art in general.
“The Rise-Up Mansfield mural honoring Dr. Martin Luther King is a beautiful example of the power of art as a medium for social justice and education. The message of love, equity and justice is particularly important at this moment in time. As an educator and person of color, I know how vital it is that our students see accurate representations of themselves, so they can imagine a future where they are active contributors. Public art initiatives such as the Rise-Up Mansfield Mural Project can spread awareness, educate and spark healthy discussion. I hope you get an opportunity to come visit the community center in Mansfield and check it out,” King said.