U groups brush up on campus tradition

Groups painted panels inside the Washington Avenue Bridge to advertise.

Emma Carew

In 1993, the University celebrated Earth Day with a project called “Beautiful U.” In an attempt to beautify the entire campus, students painted and decorated the Washington Avenue Bridge.

The following fall, the activity was opened to student groups as a means of advertising organizations. Thus Paint the Bridge was born.

Thursday and today, more than 300 campus involvement groups gathered on the bridge to partake in what has become a campuswide tradition.

The purpose of Paint the Bridge is twofold, said Joanne Reeck, Student Activities adviser and Paint the Bridge 2005 coordinator.

“It’s about spirit and pride, and getting students together to showcase their groups,” she said. “New students can also take a look and learn about groups.”

Students who get involved on campus are more likely to continue their education at the University and graduate, Reeck said.

Student activities adviser Erik Dussault said Paint the Bridge is a good community-building event that combines all different groups on campus.

“Each year the bridge gets a different look to it,” he said.

There are many types of groups represented on the panels, including cultural living communities, special interest groups and academic programs. Most panels included a group name, some form of logo and contact information.

People from the Walt Disney World College Program painted characters Mickey Mouse and Stitch on their panel in hopes of generating student interest, said Wayman Wittman, management, marketing and theater senior.

Other groups decorated their panels with purely aesthetic goals.

“We wanted to get something pretty up on the wall,” said physics junior Mary Jane Thillen, of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The group’s panel includes their name and a medieval coat of arms.

The Hmong Minnesota Student Association left room for group members to sign around the outside of the panel and leave a personal symbol, group president Dao Yang said.

The HMSA paints the bridge “to let people know who we are,” Yang said. “We promote the Hmong culture and heritage, and we’re open to anyone and everyone.”

Another cultural group, the American Indian Culture House, painted a symbol common to many American Indian nations – a medicine wheel.

It stems from the belief that everything comes in fours, said first-year family social science and American Indian studies student Marisa Carr.

The AICH, which is sponsored by the department of American Indian studies, strives to promote the concept of community and help students with the transition to college, she said.

By painting the bridge, the group hopes to remind the campus that they still exist.

“People think American Indians are extinct, or still running around in buckskin, living in tepees and dancing with wolves,” Carr said. “We’re actually on campus; we might be sitting next to you in class.”