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Student organizations disappointed about end of ‘Paint the Bridge’

One year after the event was officially retired, students express nostalgia for what they consider important to campus culture and promoting their organizations.
Image by Shalom Berhane
The University of Minnesota has not held the annual “Paint the Bridge” event since 2019.

One year after its official end in 2021, student organizations at the University of Minnesota expressed disappointment that the annual “Paint the Bridge” event will no longer be a part of campus culture.

“Paint the Bridge” began at the University in 1997, offering a unique way for student groups to promote their organizations and recruit new members.

Every September, student organizations would receive a panel to paint on the Washington Avenue bridge. Students painted murals or symbols representing their organization for other students to see when passing between the East and West banks.

The last year SUA hosted the event was 2019, and they announced last year it would not return. The bridge is now painted maroon and gold.

“I am really sad that it didn’t come back,” said Alexis Friesen, a fourth-year student at the University. “Every year you get to see the different groups and the mark that they leave on campus.”

Friesen is affiliated with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), and she participated in “Paint the Bridge” with OCF her freshman year. She said “Paint the Bridge” was one of the best ways to establish a presence on campus for her organization.

“A poster gets taken down, but when you paint the bridge, it’s up there for the full year,” Friesen said. “I remember every time I would walk past that little sign [on the bridge], I felt really encouraged because we had that representation.”

Friesen also pointed out that the bridge murals were a great way to show off small, specific organizations that could appeal to students who were not aware that clubs existed for their unique hobbies and interests.

“Yeah it looks nice [painted over], but it doesn’t showcase what our student body is actually interested in and who they are,” Friesen said.

The University currently has over 1,000 student organizations.

“It’s kinda nice to see how diverse and broad and specific and expansive the U is,” Friesen said “We can all have so many different interests, but we’re all a part of the UMN.”

Alyssa Peterson and Anthony Vystoropski, co-presidents of the University’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) chapter, said painting the bridge is a fond memory of theirs.

“It was just a really cool experience,” Peterson said. “Talking to other people that were in other clubs and hearing what they do and getting to know people better within DECA.”

Peter Joncas, president of Minnesota Quidditch, said he would love to see “Paint the Bridge” come back in the future. Although his team found other ways to inform students about the team, he misses the event and the unique method of promotion.

“We used it to advertise our intramural program and our big fundraising events, so not having that does kind of hurt,” Joncas said. “It’s just a great event all around you know, it really spiced up the bridge, made it a nice walk.

Ongoing programming and events for student organizations include the Fall Activities Fair, Homecoming Parade and Spring Jam, SUA said in an email to The Minnesota Daily. SUA declined to comment about their decision to discontinue the “Paint the Bridge” event.

All of the students interviewed said the paintings on the bridge represented an important part of on-campus culture that new students to the University will no longer experience.

“Being a freshman, you don’t really know what clubs exactly there are and what is offered, so that was a really good way to showcase what the U had,” Vystoropski said. “For me, it offered a sense of the U’s story.”

Peterson said when she toured campus before becoming a student, the tour guide showed off the bridge as a way to discover what the University had to offer. She said she learned about one of the clubs she is in now from seeing it on the bridge that day.

“I think it helped build a sense of community, especially for freshmen,” Peterson said. “If they want to find a place to belong, that was a great way to start just by seeing what options there are.”

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  • disqus_GhGgx8kvLY
    Oct 3, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Well, maybe if people played nice and didn’t vandalize areas on the bridge that contained the groups they disagreed with we would still have paint the bridge at the U.