Kayla Bushey: Graphic artist and athlete brings conversation of race to forefront

Junior track athlete Kayla Bushey never thought the project she created for her graphic design class would become so widely recognized across campus, but it is arguably a good thing that it has.
Bushey, a communications major who just declared her minor in graphic design this year, is the creative mind behind the banner that reads, “don’t be nervous. it’s just a race.”
The wording is meant to be a double meaning that plays on both the idea of race as an athletic event and also a skin tone. Races in track often generate nerves for the athletes running in them, while people of different skin tones may be ‘nervous,’ to offend one another.
The banner, which was created for the final assignment in Bushey’s Graphic Design 225 class, now hangs at Augustana’s Paul V. Olson Track.
Bushey is excited about the new opportunities that pursuing graphic design has given her this year.
“This year I was able to take my first graphic design class and really dive into art that makes a statement or has meaning that is personal to me,” said Bushey. “Before that, I had taken some beginner art classes that teach you the basics in art appreciation but this year has really been an incredible and lucky experience for me in the design world.”
Although the banner Bushey designed was for class, she can now see it every day at her track meets and practices, which was part of the reason for the wording and design of the banner. Being an athlete, Bushey knew that she wanted to incorporate that into her project in some way since it is such a huge part of her own identity.
“I knew I wanted to do something on the idea of identity, but I had no clue how to execute it,” said Bushey. “Vicki [Phipps, assistant professor of art] really pushed me to connect my message to something else I was passionate about, which is where track and field comes in. Track is just one of those sports where nerves play a big role, and it tied really well with the idea of being nervous to offend different people of different skin tones.”
The purpose of the assignment itself was to simply ‘create something that conveyed a message that had meaning to the creator’. Although the idea to create a piece of art that comes from within you may seem simple, Bushey admits that the finished product we see hanging at the track was not her first draft of the project.
“I would come home with all these ideas but none of them seemed to invite people to see my side of the dialogue,” said Bushey. “I got lost in the idea and saw race in everything like cereal, colored pencils, everything. Let’s just say that I made a lot of bad posters before I made the one that is hanging in the stadium today.”
Bushey competes in several events in track and field such as the heptathlon, jumps, and javelin and is well on her way to earning her third varsity letter this spring. She was a CCIW all-conference track athlete as a sophomore and has had similar successes this year in her junior season.
Bushey’s love for track is ultimately what revamped her creative process and got her on track to create the banner that was her final draft.
“I went to Vicki’s office exhausted [from struggling with ideas] and she asked me what I really cared about,” said Bushey. “We talked and finally the connection came between race and track and field.”
The poster that came to fruition was then displayed in the class’s final poster show in the library, and Bushey said she was approached by associate dean Jeff Ratliff-Crain, who saw her project on display. Bushey and Ratliff-Crain discussed ideas of what could be done to display Bushey’s piece on a larger scale. Bushey said she suggested the track as a platform for display, and Ratilff-Crain agreed.
Since it has been on display, Bushey said it has received positive feedback from both students and faculty members.
“In all honesty, my poster will not end racial discrimination, but it is a thing that people can talk about,” said Bushey. “People can argue, agree, and disagree on the subject of race and this [project] helps bring the conversation here to Augustana.”
“Racial tension is a part of everyday life, but if we can talk about it openly, then maybe we can begin to understand how people on all sides of the issue are feeling.”