The night before she was supposed to turn in her submission to the UNLV Graduate College mural competition, Lyssa Park stayed awake.
A second-year master of art student, Park spent that night adding the final details to Star Studies, the mural that would win her the competition.
“I’m very happy I didn’t sleep that night,” she said.
In spring 2021, the Graduate College called for proposals from UNLV students, faculty, and staff for a large-scale mural to be installed on an interior wall in the University Gateway Building. The call for proposals asked artists to theme the mural around diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Now displayed in the University Gateway Building, Star Studies, boasts colorful figures with human bodies and starry heads gathered around a table.
In her proposal, Park explained how Star Studies is a celebration of the diversity of UNLV students.
“Star Studies is based on the notion that stars represent our different cultures and our innate similarities. Although they're the same astronomical objects, humankind has interpreted stars in various ways. When gathered, these differing interpretations and backgrounds help enrich our experience and studies.”
The mural also reflects Park’s experience as an undergraduate and graduate student at UNLV.
“As an undergrad,” Park said, “I feel like I never appreciated my peers because I was busy comparing myself to my peers. Everyone else seemed very important. To use a metaphor, I felt like they were like stars.”
Now, as a graduate student, Park has learned to overcome the imposter syndrome she felt as an undergraduate and appreciate her own value, and she wants to share that message through her art.
“Especially for undergrads, and grads too,” Park said. “I want the message of my mural to be, ‘You are surrounded by really talented and important people who have value, but you are also one of those people.’”
In the ideal image Parks paints of academia, everyone, quite literally, gets a seat at the table.
Park certainly felt that way about UNLV when she was researching where to pursue her graduate degree. What stood out to her most was the personal interest the professors took in her before she even accepted her admission.
“Wendy Kveck, who is my graduate coordinator, she was very communicative and just wanted to know more about me and what I was interested in,” Park said.
And now, Park is taking an interest in her own students as a graduate teaching assistant instructing design fundamentals at UNLV.
“I think teaching is something I want to be involved in because it helps me give back to back to the next batch of artists,” Park said.
While Park inspires current UNLV students as their teacher, she will continue to inspire long after she graduates with Star Studies on permanent display in the University Gateway Building.