Newly created painting is a picture worth a thousand words at Lift Up Vikes! food pantry inside Berkman Hall
Since first opening its doors to students in 2016, The Lift Up Vikes! (LUV!) food pantry (Berkman Hall, room 148) and resource center (Berkman Hall, room 122) have served as an asset for students in need throughout the semester who need access to food and toiletries.
It recently received an addition that shows what it’s all about in just one simple painting.
A newly created mural by Graphic Design major and student artist Julia Whitaker represents a warm, vibrant, and welcoming feel when students walk into the pantry. Measuring 12ft x 8ft, Whitaker selected the color pallet explicitly to take on a friendly and eye-catching feel. Yet, at the same time, the depiction was also intentional, representing common, everyday items that students can always find stocked on the shelves.
The goal of incorporating the mural into the Lift Up Vikings! (LUV!) Pantry was to help make the space more identifiable, according to the Assistant Vice President for Campus Engagement, Ali Martin Scoufield.
“We recently added the lettering on the glass, so folks walking by had some idea it was there," she said. "LUV! is a resource for students, so we want them to know we are here, and we want to remove any stigmas associated with pantries and food insecurities.”
“We work with amazing donors – the Fowler Family – who love art, and we have a beautiful mural inside the space, so we proposed the idea of a mural outside the space and making it a student mural,” said Scoufield. “The Fowlers liked the idea, so we pitched it to our art department.”
That’s when the magic happened.
After being given an optional assignment in art class to draft a mural submission, five students were up to the challenge and put their best foot forward on a design. Although one was selected, it wasn’t an easy choice, according to Scoufield.
“We narrowed down the ones that met the space’s needs [and] they were all wonderful submissions,” she said. “This was a really hard process, but we had a specific feel, look, and vibe we were going for; we then shared those submissions with the Fowlers, and they identified their favorite.”
Assistant Professor of Drawing at CSU, David Hicks, has overseen 3 student public mural projects since 2019, the LUV! mural being the third. He said CSU art students are given unique opportunities to showcase their talent and leave a lasting mark on the community, which was the case here after he posted flyers in the art department asking for submissions for the design.
“There were several high-quality submissions, it was a tough choice,” he said. “Julia Whitaker was chosen to do the mural and she did an exceptional job in a very short time frame; I am proud of the mural and how it represents our local CSU talent, as well as enhancing the face of the LUV! pantry.”
The uber-talented Whitaker said the inspiration behind the mural design was right in front of her. It was the pantry itself! “When walking into the pantry, I never felt like I was in a boring place stuffed with edible goods, [but rather] the feeling is of a mini grocery store and very welcoming,” she said.
“I wanted the mural to be just as interactive and inviting as the pantry on the inside; another thing that inspired me was the community around ‘Lift Up Vikes’ [and] it is a place that is encouraging and uplifting, and I wanted to showcase that vibe!”
Long before the submissions rolled in for a new design, Whittaker had the wheels churning each time she walked by. “I thought, ‘Man, someone should paint something nice on there,’” she said. And like many college students who rarely check their e-mails, for some reason, this time, she did.
Consider it fate.
“Around February, I received an email from the art department with opportunities on campus [and previously] I usually never looked into these emails, but for some reason, I did this time,” she said. “There was a heading that said something like, “Mural opportunity for LUV!” and I jumped on it so fast [and] submitted my idea not thinking much of it, and [ultimately] I was chosen and was so excited!”
While the mural may be a larger-than-life depiction of all that is good about LUV!, Whitaker took a step back, looked at the bigger picture in her own life, and realized the painting was merely a microcosm of it. “Since the beginning of my freshmen year, it was challenging for me to come out of my shell,” she said. “However, coasting through the beginning of 2023, God has softened my heart and showed me that I have a purpose, and my gifts can be used to show God’s love… not just for myself but for everyone.”
Megan Ashwill is the Coordinator for LUV! She believes the mural embodies the welcoming nature of the pantry and all it offers.
“The colors are warm and inviting and that is the exact same way we want students to feel when they use the pantry,” she said. “We are always trying to reduce the stigma around food insecurity and through small things like the murals and programming in our space, we hope that students can see that we are always there to help.”
While the summer season might be in full swing, LUV! continues to be a vital resource available to all students needing access to food and toiletries. With the mural front and center, Whitaker says that while the LUV! Food Pantry does, in fact, help so many students in need, she hopes the meaning of the mural strikes a chord much deeper than that.
“I also want people to use the mural as a reminder that all things are possible, big or small, in God’s will,” she said. “We not only get the opportunity to learn but we don’t have to worry about where our meals are coming from in times of need. CSU has us taken care of!”
The pantry will be open throughout the Summer 2023 Semester Schedule from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the following dates:
June: 8, 13, and 29
July: 11 and 20
August: 1 and 15
For more information on the LUV! food pantry, including how to donate to it, please visit https://www.csuohio.edu/liftupvikes/liftupvikes