Graffiti beautifies UMass

Graffiti art can help create conversation on campus


Collegian File Photo

By Clara Goldberg, Collegian Columnist

Cities around the country have battled with graffiti artists for centuries, some embracing the distinctive art form and some criminalizing it. Over recent years, cities have utilized street artists’ talent in an attempt to beautify their communities. In many towns, including Amherst, street art can be found on electrical boxes scattered across the area, as well as on the sides of local stores.

The University of Massachusetts is one of those communities that embraces the creativity of graffiti and street art. Anyone who finds themself lying in a hammock in the Central Residential Area or eating ice cream at the Franklin Dining Commons has probably crossed paths with the infamous wall between dormitories, Wheeler and Brett Hall. If you haven’t had the chance to see this part of Central, it’s covered end-to-end with spray paint in the form of unique drawings, provocative quotes, jokes and declarations. As of now, these declarations include “I don’t miss you twat,” “bring back late night,” “Eat lots, Sleep, Break rules” and other provocative language.

As a freshman at UMass, I have formed a love-hate relationship with this colorful place of commentary. When I toured the school last spring, the wall I observed was decorated with beautiful artwork. It was one of the aspects of Central that made me want to live there so badly. I was even impressed with the school for giving students the freedom to use the wall as a place of expression, instead of punishing them for their vandalistic-type ways. I was excited to see the wall in action when I came to school in the fall. As the year has progressed, I’ve been wondering where this version of the wall has gone.

There was a short period of time, a couple of weeks ago, where the corner of the wall was covered with graphic design posters. It was a short-lived piece of work though, because a few days later, someone had spray painted all over the collage. After the death of Mac Miller, one individual made a poster in memory that depicted the musician’s face and his name written neatly across. The poster has either been removed or covered. Just recently, someone has written “Expel the Racists” two times across the length of the wall but it is barely noticeable in its plain black paint and small lettering.

The Central wall has potential to be one of the most popular spots for activism on campus, and artists have the opportunity to get creative, express their ideas and paint over the mess of crude language and doodles. If you search “graffiti wall at UMass Amherst” online, images from years ago pop up. In these pictures, you can see the wall was covered in murals, undoubtedly created by talented artists. There are also depictions of proud proclamations written by student activists.

For example, in 2015, a group of students covered the wall in black paint and white lettering in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. With the recent racist message found in the bathroom of Melville Hall and the outcome of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination; I am surprised that the wall has not been turned upside down with politically-charged messages that would inspire students to rally together. Since the wall is across from one of the main dining halls on campus and experiences foot traffic from all students walking into Central and Orchard Hill Residential Area, it would be a perfect location for someone to use if they truly wanted their message heard.

Although some would argue that the various overlapping remarks covering the location could be considered a work of art in its own way, I urge students be original and use their freedom of expression to the best of their ability. This means creating well-thought-out and detailed murals, or pieces that reflect a greater problem at hand and bring a message across to the campus community. I soon hope to see the Central wall being used to its full potential to help beautify and unite the UMass community.

Clara Goldberg is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]