Letting their light shine

Students partner with alumna Cynthia Perez — Mizzou’s current artist in residence — to create #TigersSupportTigers projections.

  • projection on side of building
    Senior Megan O’Russa's art on the side of the Sinquefield Music Center.

Sept. 28, 2020
Contact: Deidra Ashley, ashleyde@missouri.edu

Imagine your artwork projected on a 30-plus-foot building for an entire community to see. For many graphic designers, it’s just a dream. But for three University of Missouri students, it’s becoming a reality this week.

Seniors Katelyn Bartels, Megan O’Russa and Taylor Schellenberg were recently selected to participate in a student component of the Artist in Residence program. The partnership builds on the design work of MU alumna Cynthia Perez and incorporates #TigersSupportTigers messaging — a key part of MU’s efforts to educate campus about the Show Me Renewal plan. The main message of the campaign is that Tigers can support one another to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A daunting task
Megan O'Russa headshot - smiling woman with brown/blonde hair wearing a black jacket and teal top

Megan O'Russa

O’Russa, a graphic design and communication double major from Peoria, Illinois, hesitated when she was first approached by her professor. “I was very surprised and also kind of scared,” she said. “It seemed intimidating — a project for the entire campus to see — but I didn’t let that stop me. I’m really glad I said ‘yes.’”

O’Russa, along with Bartels and Schellenberg, are students in the School of Visual Studies. They were selected among 14 of their peers in a corporate identity and branding course and had a week to complete the project.

“This is a great opportunity for the students,” said Ric Wilson, an associate professor of art and design and professor of the corporate identity and branding course. “Not only did they get to work with Cynthia, but they also got to work on a tough deadline and learn new animation software that they hadn’t even heard of before the project came up. We’re very proud of their work and determination.”

Two-way mentorship

For O’Russa, the chance to work with Perez — along with the opportunity to create a distinctive portfolio piece — was the main draw to participate. “Working with Cynthia was great,” she said. “She was so helpful and supportive — always making sure we had everything we needed. It’s nice to be able to work with someone who has been through your program and sees your potential.”

Wilson said the department works hard to build a sense of community, and alumni play a key role in making that a reality. “We lean on alumni a lot in our program,” he said. “It’s important to connect our students with professionals to help widen their perspective.”

Perez, a first-generation college student and first-generation American, said she is always excited when she gets to come back to Mizzou and connect with the people who helped her get where she is today. “I miss being in the program,” she said. “You learn so much about yourself as you discover your personal style and your influences — all the while making lifelong relationships. My time in the School of Visual Studies was a cornerstone moment for me.”

And although O’Russa was a mentee for this project, Perez said acting as a mentor helped her grow as an artist, too. “It was really cool seeing the students’ take on the project,” she said. “As artists, we're like sponges. Their designs opened my mind up to other approaches and inherently made my work better, too.”

Peer-to-peer messaging

The idea behind the #TigersSupportTigers messaging is straightforward, but O’Russa said it can’t be reiterated enough. “It’s important to communicate these messages because this is what we need to do if we want to stay on campus,” she said. “I hope people go out and see this and realize that we all need to take part in this effort.”

Lighting up the night sky

The #TigersSupportTigers projections will be featured on the following buildings from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. this week:

  • Sept. 29: Jesse Hall, east side — art by Cynthia Perez
  • Sept. 30: Agriculture Building, west side — art by Katelyn Bartels
  • Oct. 1: Sinquefield Music Center, southwest side — art by Megan O’Russa
  • Oct. 2: Jesse Hall, east side — art by Taylor Schellenberg
  • Oct. 3: Agriculture Building, west side — art by Cynthia Perez


Previous "In Focus: Poetry" Coverage


The meaning behind the design

Senior Megan O’Russa shares the story behind her design

I wanted to take the concept of “picture” literally and make the design look like a polaroid picture. Polaroids are coming back in style and I thought it would visually appeal to younger people. The inside of the animation fades in and out reflecting a polaroid developing and there’s an element of suspense while you wait for it to be fully revealed.  

I wanted the word “together” to stand out and have more importance from the rest of the text, so I chose a scripty font. I also added lines that draw in and out for an additional element. The entire design flows in an endless loop to signify continued efforts.  

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.