News Article

Drawing Daily Doodles: Chalk of the Day Brightens Up Stata

Priscilla and Jessica draw use to chalk to draw a stag.

February 05, 2020

The Ray and Maria Stata Center is an architectural staple of MIT’s campus. Inside the angled walls and modern exterior lives the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), and the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. Building 32 also houses the canvas used by student group Chalk of the Day to share daily works of art.

Priscilla Wang, a chalker who graduated Fall 19’ with a degree in computer science and engineering, says she began chalking as a way to find an escape from the typical routine at MIT. Each semester students schedule and claim a day based on their availability. Priscilla and her chalking partner Jessica Xu, a junior in Course 2A, have chalked before, and last semester, they made sure they shared free Tuesday mornings to continue their tradition of making art together.

Using a pointillist technique, Priscilla taps the chalk repeatedly against the board to create a snow effect as she discusses the ways in which chalk is an unusual medium. “Some of the most difficult things about chalking are also what makes it the most interesting,” she says. “If you chalk over a really big area it ends up snowing down on everything below. Sometimes it’s an effect you want to achieve.” Her chalk partner, Jessica Xu adds “for the most part we come up with techniques on our own.” Priscilla echoes how there’s a learning curve and the way they learn is simply by chalking.

The chalk works are incredible— an homage to the film Up displays the characters lifted by a house tied to balloons with the message “adventure is out there” or a detailed hummingbird eating nectar from a blossoming flower. The works of art span from inspirational quotes to more political works, like a drawing in response to the Australian wildfires: a mama and child koala sit in a tree with the text save us above, the letters connecting like a crossword puzzle to configure AUS for Australia.

Sarah Wu, a senior in the Department of Mathematics, has been chalking since her freshman year when she was looking for more artsy things to do around campus. She compares chalking with solving a math problem— both require a level of creativity, but approaching a blank canvas is a totally different process and engages a different part of her mind. Chalking is a way to relax and destress for Sarah. “Normally, I’m always thinking about the next assignment or the next test but, this is an opportunity where once a week I can actually remove myself from that and try to focus only on the art I’m making and the things I’m contributing to the community.” Sarah and her chalking partner, Charleen Wang, a senior in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, work on a lettering piece that reads “Catch your breath, take your time”, filled with snowflakes mimicking the weather conditions outside.

Charleen shares a similar sentiment to Sarah about the importance of Chalk of the Day in her routine. “I think sometimes I forget to engage in a more creative side of me. I learned a lot about how to put in other priorities that I might be forgetting into my schedule. It’s not all about grades,” she says. She likes how temporary chalk is as a medium. “I feel more free to try different things because it’s not something so permanent like pen or painting.” Every day is an opportunity for chalk artists to try something new, create a new work of art, and feel empowered to think outside of the box.

Chalking helps students destress, but more than that, their artwork spreads positivity and inspiration to the entire MIT community. Passersby “send it to their boyfriend or girlfriend or friend or mother. I like that it has an impact that is beyond Stata or MIT,” reflects Priscilla. Chalk of the Day hopes that sharing the daily chalk-works encourages others to be more creative in their everyday lives.

Follow Chalk of the Day’s Instagram page @chalkoftheday to stay up to date on their latest creations.

Written and video by Julia Newman.

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