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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “University Boulevard’s wall fosters color, expression “

    The wall oozes with creativity. It transforms from a dull, white partition into a vibrant hodgepodge of pulsating colors. It is always different, always fresh and always bursting with personality. The wall is comical, memorable, happy, inappropriate, shocking, terrific and historic. A thousand more adjectives can describe this wall, and they would all make sense.

    Five years ago, Jane McCollum, general manager of the Marshall Foundation had a vision. She dreamed of a way to share the originality and imagination of Tucson’s ordinary people, ordinary people who do not possess the artistic abilities of Picasso, per se, but still like the idea of sharing their art with others.

    The wall, near the southeast corner of the intersection of University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue, is  approximately the size of a hot tub, the rectangular wall stretches along the exterior of Baskin-Robbins. In large, graffiti bubble letters, “”Grab A Brush”” is scrawled above the wall in an orangey color with a dark cobalt outline. Students, children and adults use the paintbrushes provided by the charitable foundation to paint on the open canvas. Typically, people simply sign their names and doodle peace signs or hearts. Everyone has the freedom to express his or her feelings on a public wall without having to worry about damaging public property or unwanted permanency.

    Once paint is placed on the ground, it takes about 30 seconds for pedestrians to race to the wall to make their mark on it. Within the next hour, the wall is splattered with autographs and pictures Once the wall is full, the paint can is removed so that all can enjoy the fresh piece of artwork.

    “”The wall used to have a lot of art,”” said McCollum. “”Now, people are more interested in just making their mark. It’s more of a mishmash of everyone’s ideas and initials.””

    In the fall of 2005, the wall was born during the UA event “”Almost Free Fridays”” on the deck area above American Apparel on the UA campus. It was located next to Oriental Express, and people loved being able to paint whatever they wished. Soon after, a few girls painted an impressive samurai soldier on the wall, and the owners of the Asian restaurant did not wish to see it go. The wall then moved to a more visible and accessible spot at its current location, where people shopping and eating on the campus strip are able to see it.

    Events like “”Bear Down Friday”” spark the repainting of the wall, and usually the paint provided will match the event the day. Red and blue paint will be lying out for people to use in spirit of the UA’s colors.

    McCollum said police report less graffiti violations near the area now that there is a designated place to paint on a wall. Many authorities have commented that they wish to construct similar walls around Tucson as a logical and creative solution to vandalism problems.

    About a year ago, some nude and “”pornographic”” depictions of genital areas appeared on the wall. A debate occurred in McCollum’s office because the wall was never meant to display inappropriate and insulting images. Of course, whenever racial slurs, threats and certain words were scrawled on the wall, the white paint went up without any hesitation. However, this was “”creativity”” of the human mind, and therefore different.

    Jarah Ray, manager of Silver Mine Subs restaurant, located directly south of the wall, remembers the most inappropriate drawings. “”There were boobs and penises on the wall, but I thought it was just a good laugh. What you usually see is the typical, cheesy ‘Matt loves Emily’ scribbled on it.””

    McCollum said the office was divided in two. One side believed the wall was an outlet of creative imagination, and to paint over the improper pictures because they could be insulting was an insult to the artist, as they were  only drawings. Others said that children and parents did not need to see inappropriate drawings, and the paint should be removed immediately before bothering too many people.

    When you provide people with a paintbrush and allow them to paint, they will paint. With no rules and no restrictions, the question is this: Who is to say that these paintings are not art?


    The foundation ended up removing the drawings later that day, but everyone walking by earlier most likely caught a glimpse.

    Whether decked out in flowers or alarming images, the wall continues to bring color and diversity to the walkway. It’s safe to say that McCollum’s dream came true.

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