Ethnic studies course leads to community outreach project

Several Northern Arizona University students took their studies to the street over the summer through an outreach project in Flagstaff’s Southside community.

Ricardo Guthrie, assistant professor of NAU’s Ethnic Studies, spearheaded the project that brought together faculty, staff, students, community artists and volunteers to honor the area’s history in the form of a mural on the Murdoch Community Center along Butler Avenue.

With the Race, Space and Segregation course he teaches in mind, Guthrie researched and designed the project, produced the mural images, helped to recruit volunteers and worked closely with the Southside Community Association to plan and produce the mural.

“The mural project has advanced due to ongoing leadership and commitment provided by Ethnic Studies,” Guthrie said. “It is a faculty-led research project that connects in-class and community service opportunities and demonstrates our dedication to academic learning and service in the community.”

Fellow Ethnic Studies instructor T. Mark Montoya and Gerald Wood, assistant professor for NAU’s College of Education, brought additional students to assist with painting through their work with the Freedom Summer project. Franklin Willis, associate professor in the School of Art, also played a role in carrying out the project and installed the scaffolding.

The mural depicts several local historical figures including Katherine Hickman, Flagstaff community activist, and NAU alumnus Wilson Riles, who worked as a teacher and principal at Flagstaff’s Dunbar School for Blacks from 1941 to 1954 and twice was elected associate superintendent of Public Instruction for California in the 1970s. Renowned poet laureate Paul Laurence Dunbar, Joan Dorsey, Flagstaff resident and the first black woman to work as a flight attendant for a major airline, and Tildy Johnson, who was a teacher at Dunbar School until it closed in 1954 and then taught at South Beaver School, also are featured in the mural.