Like students around the world last spring, Arianna Meinking ’24 was finishing high school remotely after campuses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like teachers around the world, Meinking’s physics instructor, Enrique Arce-Larreta, was finding creative ways to keep students engaged and excited about online learning. That may be what prompted him to challenge his students with an unusual task: Enter a competition to design a new flag for their hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Excited about the project, Meinking became one of the 600 students who entered the competition. The 600 were narrowed to eight entries, including Meinking’s, that best demonstrated the key principles of good flag design: keep it simple, use meaningful symbolism, use two to three basic colors, no lettering or seals, and be distinctive or be related. The public rated the finalists and narrowed the field to two top designs: those of Meinking and Ella Kennedy-Yoon, both from Salt Lake’s West High School.
It was decided that the blue and white backdrop (from Kennedy-Yoon’s design)— which could symbolize snow, the sky, the Great Salt Lake and salt—would pair best with the sego lily (from Meinking’s design), a flower indigenous to the area, and which symbolizes resilience.
Meinking is now a first-year student at Harvey Mudd. We asked her about the flag competition, growing up in Salt Lake and her love of art and physics.
What was it like growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah?
Salt Lake is a fantastic place to grow up. I’ve always taken advantage of the mountains, skiing, and national parks in Southern Utah. Salt Lake also has a great culture for a kid— lots of the arts mixed with the right number of comic cons. I’ve attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival ever since I was a kid, and there are many more opportunities to enjoy plays throughout the city. I’ve also always loved the Great Salt Lake. It’s a fascinating unique and extreme environment that many residents take for granted.
Describe your journey as an artist.
I find that sketching frees my mind, so I’ve always treated my drawings as a stress relief rather than as a dedicated pursuit. Still, I’ve taken a few art classes, and, as I’ve grown older, my drawings have morphed to digital art, which is how I’m learning to doodle now.
What was your creative process for this flag design?
Because so much of my childhood and what I love about Salt Lake City hinges on nature, I knew I’d want to incorporate a natural symbol into my design, and I quickly settled on the sego lily as a symbol. My fourth-grade teacher, Sheri Sohm, taught us about the importance of the sego lily bulbs to both the pioneers and the Native Americans, so the sego lily also naturally brought together different key groups of Salt Lake’s history, representing all of us.
What were your thoughts when you found out you were one of the eight finalists?
I was really honored to be considered, and I was genuinely astounded that my physics assignment took me this far. My physics teacher has been cheering me on every step of the way.
What was the reaction of family and friends to your design being part of the new Salt Lake City flag?
My family is very proud of me. A lot of them were really proud that I’d finally done something they could brag about to their friends that doesn’t have to do with debate or particle physics.
Why Harvey Mudd?
I chose Harvey Mudd because of the emphasis on exploration of passion: I have a lot of different interests, and I wanted to go somewhere where I could try choir, political science, art and still have depth in the STEM subjects. I’m considering majoring in physics—my current passion is particle physics/cosmology—and how we do physics with AI. I plan to continue drawing in my free time, but I don’t know what I want my HSA concentration to be quite yet.
So far, how has college been?
I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy online college. I’m a bit of an introvert, so now I can choose when I want to be with friends and when I want to binge Netflix without pressure. All of my professors have been fantastic, and all of my classes are engaging and interesting. Specifically, the transition to online with all of my classes has been smooth. It’s clear my professors really care (Prof. Dodds knows all of my cats’ names, and he’s never even met them), and homework doesn’t feel like work since it’s all so interesting. After a semester online, I’m super proud to be a Mudder. I’m even more excited to actually see campus.