Graffiti 002

Featured in the 1986 Athena yearbook, “Off the Wall," this photo highlights the yearbook staff after they painted the Wall for their cover.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio Today

Graffiti 003

A student spray paints the Graffiti Wall to advertise for an upcoming swim and dive team meet. The Graffiti Wall is still used today as a place to announce sporting events as well as the scores of games.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio Today

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Memories written on the Graffiti Wall

Alumni and students speak out about OHIO's Graffiti Wall

In 1976, the editors of the Ohio University yearbook found inspiration in a tradition of Ohio University life that still lives strong: the Graffiti Wall.

"Whatever the message, whenever the change, the Graffiti Wall offers a kaleidoscope for everyone," yearbook editor Sue Koch wrote in a short essay. "Perhaps in your heart lurks the hope that someday a message will appear that pertains directly to you."

Who knew that the wall she was describing then — a retaining wall at the top of Richland Avenue — would weather not just rain and snow, but also hundreds of messages and gallons of paint, and evolve into such a beloved student tradition?
Students have painted everything on this wall: marriage proposals, advertisements for campus events, scores of games and even an occasional invitation to weekend parties.

"Writing on the wall [is] almost like a rite of passage," said Elizabeth Donahue Huber, who graduated in 1986. She served as one of the managing editors of the 1986 yearbook, which had an "Off the Wall" theme dedicated to the Graffiti Wall.

"Everyone felt compelled at some point during their OU career to write on it," Huber added.

A cherished tradition

Today what has been called either the Graffiti Wall or sometimes just the "Wall" refers to three small walls located behind Bentley Hall on Richland Avenue.

"It is so nice to see that in late fall, people will be out there with their hot chocolate and thermoses wearing gloves and hats, painting the wall," said Assistant Dean of Students Char Kopchick, who has helped many student groups get their message out on the wall. "It is one of those memories many students have when they graduate."

The paintings themselves are not the only intriguing aspect of the wall; the competition to paint the wall — and see how long a painting lasts before being painted over — adds an element of excitement to the experience.

“I worked 23 hours doing the whole wall and finished at 4 a.m.," recalled Andrew "Ocean" Eiler, a 2002 graduate. "[I] go home to get a camera and when I come back, some Greek kids had completely washed everything.

"But that was the fun of the wall. It was a continuing, transforming wall.”

From the Marching 110 to Student Senate, student organizations find that the Graffiti Wall serves an important role in promoting events and at the same time offers a bonding experience for members.

Curious about the Student Senate graffiti “wars” and other Graffiti Wall traditions? Visit Ohio Today Online to read the rest of this story. You’ll find a photo slideshow and a unique time-lapse video of the Marching 110 transforming the Graffiti Wall.