Before the Graffiti Hall on the campus of UAF was born it was an ordinary hallway in the Fine Arts Complex, built in 1973. Originally it led not only to the basement of the theatre, but also to a short tunnel that connected to the old Taku stairs. This tunnel allowed people to walk directly to the stairs without crossing the street. The tunnel was closed off after melting permafrost rendered the ceiling structurally unstable.During the 1970’s an art student who was a theatre minor painted the walls of the Hallway with two murals, one on either side of the hall. The small one on the South wall represented the “house” and stage apron of the Fine Arts Theatre (now renamed the Lee Salisbury Theatre) as seen from the stage.
On the North wall was a larger mural, depicting the stage as seen from the apron. [Click figure for larger view.]
I photographed these murals when I first came to UAF in 1988-89 as a temporary visiting professor. In the following year [1989-90] the murals were vandalized, and so director Tom Riccio painted over them in black paint when he and Anatoly Antohin were spending a weekend turning the Green Room classroom space into a black box theatre.The Hallway was not altered for some time after that, then in 1990-91 bits of pointless and profane graffiti began to appear. Annoyed with the look of this, in fal of 1991 I set my costume design class out in the hall one day with colored chalks, and requested they decorate the hall with art. This got the ball rolling, and after leaving colored chalk out for the public, the hall began to be a place for artistic and poetic graffiti.
By 1992 the Hall had every bit of it’s surface covered with chalk. The Student Drama Association decided to sponsor the making of a Rock video in the Hall. In it, dancers in black unitards with graffiti on them, danced in the Hall until a funky looking cleaning lady chased them away and washed down the graffiti. At the end of filming, SDA painted the Hall black, and the graffiti process began again. SDA painted the Hall black a few more times, once the walls got so full there is no more room for more graffiti. Around 1999 the theatre got a load of free colored paints from the closing of the JC Penney store, and painted the hall with multicolored graffiti.
If you are in need of putting graffiti on a wall at UAF, please do it here, in the interest of keeping the rest of campus free of the stuff. Use chalk or non toxic paints, not spray paint, since the air system in the building will keep re-circulating airborne paint vapors and make everyone (the theatre costume shop staff especially) sick. Also, try to put up statements that are truly profound, or funny or odd. Do artwork, don’t just make a mess. You will therefore find your work admired by all, and may someday find it online here in a future episode of “The Secret History of the Graffiti Hall”……