New and returning groups take brushes to pedestrian bridge

Maisha Downey

When the University offers free paint, brushes and room to advertise, students come prepared.

There’s proof of this on the Washington Avenue Bridge, where nearly 300 groups painted logos, borders and designs along panels in the pedestrian walkway Thursday.

The annual tradition, which started in 1993 as a way to deter graffiti, allows campus groups and organizations to promote their causes.

This year, the University provided 112 gallons of paint and 2,600 brushes, but many groups brought additional items.

Beth Duncan and Amber Knapp, Graduate School office staff members, came with kneepads, rulers, extra paint containers and an eraser.

Their office started planning the artwork for their panel at the end of July, Duncan said.

“If you don’t plan beforehand and make it look nice, it can be a detriment to what you’re trying to promote if it looks unprofessional,” Duncan said.

Their design, two Roman columns bordering the Graduate School name, was chosen from four others Duncan sketched out. The final drawing was done on a grid on a sheet of paper half the size of the panel and later was replicated on the wall.

Student Activities Office Director Laura Nyre said the only information required to be displayed is the name of the organization and contact information. The University does have a right to remove anything it finds offensive, she said.

“Generally people are really respectful and paint some really creative things,” Nyre said.

Emily Olson, a biochemistry and Spanish sophomore, said the bridge paintings helped her get involved.

“When I started (school) last year, this is how I found out about a lot of the groups I joined like Habitat for Humanity and gymnastics club,” Olson said.

This year, she came to promote a new cause: Students Against Youth AIDS, which became an official University group two weeks ago.

For the group’s first panel, Olson said, the group decided to put its logo, the group’s name, a red ribbon and contact information.

Olson didn’t bring anything except a pencil, so she was forced to use the edge of a three-ring binder as a straightedge.

This is the first form of publicity for the group, but Olson said she hopes membership will increase from the nine current members.

Ed Kim, a student activities adviser, spent his second year working the bridge event distributing paint to groups.

Kim said the groups with successful panels have something in common.

“They always come early and take time to do it,” he said.

While all 612 panels have been assigned to groups, Nyre said any unclaimed panels would reopen at 11:15 a.m. today.

“I can’t promise there will be open panels, but I think there is a good chance some might be unclaimed,” she said.

The deadline to complete the panels is 5 p.m. today.