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Mural helps connect students

Kat Gilbertson next to her mural
Kat Gilbertson stands next to the mural she recently painted in the University Student Union at South Dakota State University. The mural took nearly six hours to complete.

When hearing Katrina ‘Kat’ Gilbertson is majoring in psychology along with pursuing minors in human development and family studies and women, gender and sexuality studies, one does not expect to learn she’s the artist who painted the #JacksForAll mural in the University Student Union at South Dakota State University.

However, Gilbertson, a junior from Larchwood, Iowa, painted murals in high school and has an affinity for art. Kate Stock, SDSU’s assistant director for student activities, knew of Gilbertson’s artistic abilities and asked her if she would be interested in painting a mural.

“I was really excited about it because I really haven’t pursued art a lot since coming to college … there have been a lot of other things I wanted to dip my toes into,” said Gilbertson, noting some of those other things included being an orientation leader during New Student Orientation and being a member of The Pride of Dakotas Marching Band.

The mural’s location, along Main Street in the University Student Union, is across from the Students’ Association office and near the Volstorff Ballroom, was selected due to its visibility. Stock said plans are to keep the mural in place until the Thanksgiving break.

“I don’t think there was any singular reason for choosing this particular mural but more of a feeling of right place, right timing, right message, right rabbit. The University Student Union is such a hub of student activity, in any year. This year, it’s still that hub, albeit more of a passthrough than it has been in the past,” Stock said.

“I’ve always been interested in using that space to convey messaging, but it’s not always been feasible or available. This time it was, and we seized that opportunity,” Stock continued. “It’s a challenging time; that doesn’t mean we can’t use all the reminders we can get about how we’re in the challenge together. I hope it brings a little bit of color, light and Jackrabbit positivity to those who need it most on any particular day at any particular moment.”

Stock added that Gilbertson’s upbeat, positive personality also played into her decision to ask Gilbertson to paint the mural, which took six hours to complete.

“Painting the mural and seeing it is a little surreal to me,” said Gilbertson, who admits she’s not in the University Student Union as much as she’d like to be due to living off campus and having online classes. “When I came into the building (Monday), it was ‘Wow, I did that.’ I remember a few people stopping by and commenting when I was working on it. It was really cool to have that support. I hope others get that feeling from looking at it.

“I am very thankful for getting the opportunity to not only paint the mural, but also help communicate and spread the message of caring for ourselves, others and the whole Jackrabbit community,” she continued. “Finding our new normal has been and is going to be quite difficult. If we put ourselves in each other’s shoes, we will be better able to support each other and accomplish the mission of keeping everyone safe.”