Mud and martinis: Graphic design class creates gallery showcasing art from poor Uganda community

Kaitlin Thoresen/Staff Photographer University Art Gallery Director Anne Joehenour, left, talks with Graphic Design Professor David Stairs, right, regarding the display of bricks that represent adults in Africa living with HIV/AIDs during the gallery reception of Graphic Design BFA Exhibition: Mud and Martinis. The design work was created by students in ART 472 to raise money to help build a community center in the Wakiso District of Uganda.

Each year, the department of art sponsors and the University Art Gallery hosts the Graphic Design Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition, and this year's takes on a special meaning.

In the Wakiso District of Uganda in Africa, poverty, health issues and lack of education are pervasive issues. The Fountain of Hope Foundation-Uganda was created in 1990 by James Lutwama to develop a better district through hard work and donations.

In January, Stairs presented this project to the class, in which they would create designs that ultimately raise awareness and money for the cause.

“I am an acquaintance with James Lutwama from previous trips to Africa. The foundation is raising money to build a gathering place for people in the community,” Professor of Art and Design David Stairs said. “Our exhibition helps to raise awareness and money through donations to help jump start the program. Our goal is to raise $15,000 in 50 days.”

Saturday afternoon, the Mud and Martinis exhibition’s opening day was held in the University Art Gallery. Stairs’ graphic design capstone class created a gallery showcase that featured their projects.

The class of 24 students worked together to design art portraying conditions in the Uganda community. The art included an informational film, graphic designs and the resources that the people of Uganda use to make a living, such as lunch pals made of bottle caps and wire.

The students worked in groups and took on different responsibilities to make this showcase possible.

“This cause gives us the chance as designers to put as much effort into the day-to-day living,” Mount Pleasant senior David Birkam said. "We can all help with our skills. That may not be necessarily humanism or anything along those lines, but it shows that everyone can help make a difference. We can all be mindful of what our skills can do that we would not normally think of. It is a learning experience; we have the opportunity to work with a large group that is a real-life cause.”

Marlette senior Kelsey Jickling is a graphic design major who worked on the installation group for the Uganda project. Jickling was given the chance to help create the layout.

“This was an experience that I really enjoyed because it’s something that I most likely won’t be able to do again,” Jickling said. “Most designers don’t take into account the non-profit organizations and concentrate on big industries.”

The Mud and Martinis Exhibition provided students with opportunities to interface with the world through graphic design. The exhibition will be open to the public until next Saturday, and donations can be made at


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