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Iconic AUA Graffiti Stairwell Whitewashed

A piece of history has disappeared from Calgary’s art and design university after a coat of whitewash erased years’ worth of artwork in the institution’s iconic graffiti stairwell.

For years, students of the Alberta University of the Arts (AUA), formerly the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), have been creating layers upon layers of art on the walls of the stairwell.

“It’s an on-campus space that has been set aside for students to express their creativity,” said Marion Garden, the director of marketing and communications at AUA.

The stairwell is located in AUArts on the south side of the campus. Students use it to travel from class to class.
Tuesday, March 21, 2019
Photo by Rorie Stannard

“It’s been in existence for decades, and is a beloved tradition for students.”

In late February, the entire stairwell was coated in a layer of white paint for a reason that remains unknown — completely covering all of the existing art.

There have been rumours floating around as to who whitewashed the stairwell, but the identity of the person is yet to be confirmed.

“I was a bit sad about it being covered up,” AUA student Sabrina Shamsudeen said.

“I used certain paintings to indicate which floor I was on.

“Now that they’re not there, I find myself going one more floor past the one I wanted.”

There are no rules for how long work is displayed for in the stairwell, or who can cover it with their own, but it is meant only for AUA student use and is not open to the public.

“I would have been on board with it if they had done a better paint job,” Shamsudeen said.

 “One coat of paint isn’t enough – it just looked gross.”

As of mid-March, students have started putting new artwork on top of the, now, “blank canvas.”

“Our university community supports the impermanence of the stairwell. The space is in a state of flux and is constantly changing,” Garden said.

“Every student artist who makes the personal decision to do work in this space understands their effort will be covered up by another artist with a new vision.”

The stairwell is located in AUArtson the south side of the campus. Students use it to travel from class to class.
Tuesday, March 21, 2019
Photo by Rorie Stannard

Many students posted their reactions to the event on the “ACAD Anonymous” Facebook page.

One student submitted a post voicing their disappointment towards now being unable to take graduation pictures in the stairwell, and said that the disappointment they hear from some AUA instructors in regards to the stairwell being whitewashed is “huge.”

“I’ve never contributed,” AUA student Kat Evangelista said.

“But I know a lot of other people really like it.”

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