Legal Chalk-In: A Political and Artistic Success


After Homecoming weekend’s attempt to chalk peacefully ended in a much-talked-about altercation, Wesleyan students tried once more to get their voices heard… er, seen. On Friday, October 26th, a group of students organized a massive legal chalk-in on Church Street in front of Exley Science Center. The event’s legality was its key component: the sidewalks outside of Exley are owned by the city and not the university, and students had made proper contacts with the city government to confirm that chalking students would not receive punitive action.

Starting mid-afternoon, students were marking up the sidewalks with crates of chalk provided by the UOC. The operation centered around the main Exley entrance, but student designs quickly filled sidewalks up to the intersection of Church and Pine, down past Shanklin Hall, and the sidewalks in front of Olin on the opposite side of the street.

What was on the sidewalks? Photos, videos, and more after the jump…

The Topics on the ‘Walks:
Pro-Need Blind
Anti-Chalking Ban
Current threats to our freedom of speech and expression on campus
Happy Birthday messages (and Happy Friday messages, and Happy Day messages, and Happy Life messages…)
Inspirational quotes
Questions about racism on campus (in light of the recent assaults on campus and ACB hate-speech)
Childish drawings of monsters and rainbows and animals (including one full-scale nude woman… try and find her in one of the chalking videos below)
Yards and yards of “KEEP WES WEIRD”

Before the chalk-in was open for business, organizers of the event drew barriers between what was considered “public sidewalk” and “Wesleyan sidewalk,” to ensure that a misplaced doodle wouldn’t get a well-intentioned student in trouble. I find these “barrier” marks to be some of the most interesting of them all. It’s strange and ridiculous that something so innocuous as a crack in the pavement defines what is legal and what is not. Many students’ chalkings flirted with this line or crossed it; the phrase “What if we just keep going…?” snaked up the pavement paths towards WeShop, and a rocket ship burst through the line in front of Olin.

Some students stayed long past the hour for which the event was scheduled. Some students had only a few minutes between classes to chalk but came out anyway to scrawl a sentence or two. Overheard among the participants were phrases from “I’m not a big chalker” to “I could do this forever!”

The chalk-in was not about this issue or that one. It was about students with different beliefs, different styles, and different causes coming together to express themselves in the same medium. A medium that we use not simply because it is banned or because we want to further spite the administration. A medium that, when used wisely, is not “graffiti” but “campus beautification.”

Though Hurricane Sandy has pummeled away all of our masterpieces (and you probably forgot all about the chalk-in by now because you’ve been inundated with weather-related news), there’s always next time.

Enjoy these videos of student-relayed stories of the day and more views of the chalked ‘walks.

P-Safe Director Dave Meyer Questions Legal Chalk-In

Students Ben and Yona on Chalking

Shots of the Legal Chalk-In @ Wesleyan in Real-Person-Walking-Around-Vision

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6 thoughts on “Legal Chalk-In: A Political and Artistic Success

  1. Pingback: Fit To Print: Wesleyan Need Blind Struggles Covered in NYT – Wesleying

  2. Pingback: A Decade Without Chalking, Part Two: An Interview with Matthew M ’05 – Wesleying

  3. Slim

    This University, like others, likes to think of itself as a bastion of free thought, the open exchange of ideas, and public intellectual discourse. The fact that these things are not only actively repressed by the university, but that we as students need to appeal to the local city government for protection of our right to open dialogue is truly amazing.

    In Middletown, open discourse is banned from the schools and only safe in the streets.

    1. hipchalkster

      …chalking is hipster? chalking was wes before it was cool. wait, i mean…uhh

      but seriously, don’t hate

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