Story by Joy Chou
Although full of memories and history from the first year of the Creative Arts LLP, the original mural in the LLP Art Studio from 2016 was in dire need of a refresh to represent the incredible growth that the program has experienced in just a couple of years. Created during the Fall 2016 semester, the mural was a project that commemorated the inaugural year of the Creative Arts LLP. “I believe the mural slowly started crumbling during the 2017-2018 year because well. You know. It was put up with duct tape,” recalls Alexandra Burns, who served as Senior Peer Mentor from 2016 to 2018 and now works as the Administrative Coordinator for the Department of Arts Administration. The theme for the mural created in 2016 was how students felt about their upcoming semester, and Burns remembers her panel discussing her hopes for the LLP and its students.
“I am hopeful that [our mentees] will learn not only in the classroom, but outside as well. I am hopeful that they will learn about themselves and the people around them. Above all, I am hopeful that they are happy and healthy in their new Kentucky home,” Burns wrote in 2016 about her panel of the mural—and with the steady growth of the LLP, it is clear that students in the program have been doing just that.
Since 2016, the program has continuously expanded to nearly 175 students during 2021-2022, and next year’s community for 2022-2023 has already exceeded 200 students with the deadline to apply for an LLP approaching on May 20, 2022. Such a great amount of growth called for a renewal of the mural to represent the recent cohorts of students, which currently includes the work of students from the 2020-2021 cohort and will later be expanded by the panels painted by students from the 2021-2022 cohort. The new mural project was designed and organized by senior peer mentor Riley Ramsey, a rising senior in the College of Fine Arts who is majoring in Art Education with a minor in dance.
“To me the mural really shows how creative our LLP is and how we all want to come together and build each other up in the best way possible. It shows how we keep growing, working together, and forming incredible relationships through engagement in the LLP,” says Ramsey. Ramsey has participated in the LLP since her freshman year and served as Senior Peer Mentor for two out of her three years as a Peer Mentor. Recently, she was nominated for and awarded as the 2022 Peer Mentor of the Year by the UK Office of Residence Life.
“I have seen the LLP change in so many ways throughout the years,” reflects Ramsey. “Each cohort of new mentees and peer mentors creates an incredible environment and community. This community we have created has made more mentees want to return and continue to be a part of the fun!”
The Creative Arts LLP is a residential program through the College of Fine Arts and is open to all majors who have an interest in the arts. The community encourages involvement in all art forms, including those outside of the College of Fine Arts, and provides students with opportunities to be engaged in the arts and express their creativity with like-minded creative-types. Jazmin Rose, a sophomore majoring in Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies with a concentration in Professional Writing and Editing, and minors in Spanish and Professional and Technical Writing, is one such student who has thrived under the creative environment of the LLP as a returning member who joined the program during her freshman year.
“Being involved in the LLP has made coming to UK during a pandemic just so much easier. I was exposed to different classes and artistic forms that I wouldn't have tried out if it wasn't for the LLP,” says Rose. “The LLP allows me to keep using my creative muscles! I am able to think creatively in a field that isn't always the most creative. I also met my best friend in the LLP too, which was my first time ever being friends with a natural-born artist like so many in the LLP are, and we're going into our 3rd year of friendship soon! I find I click very easily with people in the LLP when it comes to our art forms.”
For Rose, the LLP and its new mural symbolize a space of belonging and inspiration. “The LLP Mural to me, represents all the amazing parts of creativity. As a black writer, naturally, my race spills into my work, so I did a panel that talks about all the different parts of me, my identity, and my writing. Also as a RA in Holmes, I am able to further experience all of the diversity and just pure talent that the LLP has, and I think that's what the mural means to me. Creative diversity. Creative freedom to be diverse.”
Not only has the LLP expanded as a result of new students, but it has also increasingly retained more returning members each year. Since 2018, the returner cohort has more than doubled in size from 30 students to over 60 this past academic year and the LLP is currently expecting over 70 current members to return this upcoming fall. The College of Fine Arts has also increased the number of student Peer Mentor positions offered to support the growing program. Kaya Capehart and Dorian Gordon, rising juniors majoring in Music Education, both painted panels of the mural as mentees during their freshman year and have stayed with the LLP for a second year as Peer Mentors.
“It shows the power that your environment can have over one’s success,” remarks Gordon about the mural. “I definitely feel more involved as a creative arts student due to the fact that I am constantly surrounded by people with similar interests as me. It makes me feel like I have a support system to support me through my college experience.”
“Being in the LLP has done so much for me,” says Capehart, who will be returning to the LLP in 2022-2023 as one of the Co-Senior Peer Mentors. “Coming in as an out of state student was very difficult, but through the LLP I have made many lifelong friends and experienced wonderful art forms that I would have never been able to do any other way. My creativity flourishes in the LLP and I feel as if I am in a community where I can be my authentic self.”
“The LLP mural is the culmination of all the different art forms in the LLP. Although the mural was made through painting, it shows the multitude of creative minds we have in the LLP. I feel that is the perfect representation of our awesome and unique community!”
Capehart perfectly sums up what the 2022-23 cohort can look forward to in the Fall. Currently at 209 students, next year’s cohort will be the largest one yet, and students will be able to connect with fellow creative types both in and outside of the College of Fine Arts through monthly events, connected courses, Peer Mentor groups, and several other opportunities.