Chalk in hand, George Washington students took to H Street on Tuesday, turning their pent-up stress into artistic masterpieces on a canvas of city street cement.
Hundreds of students participated in the 32nd annual “Chalk-In”—sponsored by the University Counseling Center, Program Board and Active Minds—drawing whatever inspired them on the stretch of street in front of Gelman Library. Dotting the street were countries’ flags, animals, landscapes, Greek letters and even inspirational messages like “Hope” and “You are beautiful.” The GW Ballet Group, GW Flute Choir and student Nathan Muchnick performed.
“It is important to take a break and step back from the books once in awhile,” said Mark Levine, senior associate dean of students and interim director of UCC. “Chalk-In allows all members of the community to relax and express who they are, where they are from, what organizations they are involved in, what is important to them and, of course, enjoy the wonderful outdoors and connect with others.”
The arts, specifically, are a useful way to de-stress, said Rachel Abram, arts chair of Program Board.
“Everyone, including those who don’t self-identify as artistic, can associate with the stress relief and simple bliss that occurs when you hear your favorite song on the radio or enjoy a show at the local theater,” Ms. Abram said “Chalk-In sought to encourage attendees to enjoy and to actively participate in the arts as a method of relaxation.”
And if nothing else, chalking brings back the nostalgia of childhood.
“As kids, we are encouraged to draw and paint. Why should that stop as adults?” said Imran Riaz, assistant director of outreach and prevention at UCC. “We see a lot of smiling faces at Chalk-In, and I think that’s because of the license it gives us to have fun.”
Just outside the library, graduating civil engineering majors Krystal Brun and Claire Powers were doing just that as they labored away on their message: “Peace out GW! Love, the senior civils.” The pair was studying at the library when they realized Chalk-In had started.
Albeit brief, it was a welcome respite, they agreed, especially since three presentations, four projects and two tests are between them and Commencement.
“It’s a great outlet,” Ms. Brun said. “It’s a nice way to be outside, and take a few minutes and do something completely random and different, and express yourself, and then go back to studying. For us, we’ll probably go back to Gelman.”
Not just a study break, Ms. Powers said she wanted to leave her (washable) mark on GW.
“This is kind of a nice little goodbye,” she said. “We’re almost done, and we’re leaving our mark on the university, even though it’ll be washed away. We’ll always know it was here.”
Dean of Students Peter Konwerski said Chalk-In is one of his favorite GW traditions. Community members have the chance to “break out their creativity to really express what’s on their mind in bright images, bold words and vibrant artistic renderings that reflect the tapestry of our diverse community,” he said.
In the weeks leading up to finals, it’s important to get adequate sleep, eat well, exercise and take time for yourself, said Mr. Levine. Avoid procrastinating by setting a realistic study schedule that includes some breaks.
For students who are interested in counseling as a way to cope with academic stress, the UCC offers free podcasts on stress management and study skills on its website, and students can make an appointment with a counselor at 202-994-5300, Dr. Riaz said.
There’s also the upcoming second-annual Love is Louder Block Party on May 3 from noon to 4 p.m. on Kogan Plaza. Sponsored by Active Minds, GW community members can de-stress with free pizza, cupcakes, music and a photo booth, said Rachel Krausman, co-president of Active Minds.