Majority of paint and chalk art to be removed from Simmons this summer

Students to be allowed lounge and hallway exceptions, five student room exceptions

Simmons Hall is being taken offline this summer for a deep clean, for the first time since its construction in 2002. The maintenance work will include removing the majority of paint and chalk artwork from the walls.

The focus on Simmons is part of plan to ensure that each residence hall is taken offline for the summer every few years for “important preventative work,” David Friedrich, senior associate dean of housing and residential services, wrote in a statement emailed to The Tech.  

“We will conduct routine maintenance and upkeep including deep cleaning and painting throughout the building,” Friedrich wrote.

Unlike Burton Conner, East Campus, or Random, Friedrich continued, Simmons is not a “mural building,” and “the planned cleaning and painting will help restore original finishes in the building.”

Friedrich also wrote that communication with the Simmons community is ongoing to form an action plan. “The building has had a history of creative expression with chalk, and we have heard from the house leadership that there are significant pieces of importance to the community. At the same time there are other chalkings that do not have significance,” he wrote.

Simmons residents were informed of the deep clean by Dennis Collins, director of capital renewal and renovation, at a house meeting May 5. Residents had mixed opinions on the removal of paint and chalk.

“Students feel strongly that we should be the agents in removing chalk and paint art in Simmons. Although some walls could be cleaned of dirt and grime, students felt that they should be the ones to determine what gets removed and kept,” Simmons President Carlos Sendao ’20 wrote in an email to The Tech. Sendao wrote that his comments are based on student response at the May 5 house meeting.

“Personally, I don’t think a deep clean is that big of a deal,” Maya Levy ’21, a resident of Simmons, wrote in an email to The Tech. “It’s really nice that Simmons lets its students express themselves creatively and I don’t think this deep clean is necessarily a bad thing — just a fresher canvas to paint on!” Levy suggested a Simmons-sponsored mural-painting event after the summer to encourage students, especially first years, to paint and chalk the dorm.

According to an email from Simmons House Chair Amber Bick ’21 to residents May 15, there will be some exceptions to the paint and chalk removal. These exceptions were negotiated by Bick, in a meeting with Collins, Simmons House Manager Nika Hollingsworth, and Area Director Kristen Shannon. According to the current agreement, five student rooms will be chosen to have their artwork preserved every time the dorm is repainted.

Additionally, “finished artwork in good condition” in lounges and hallways will be allowed to remain if supported by popular opinion. Student approval for preserving art pieces is being gathered through a survey emailed to residents by Bick. Bick also wrote that according to the agreement, current murals in stairwell egresses will not be removed, but chalking will not be permitted there in the future.

“I'm just glad they gave us some leeway after realizing how many of us cared about the art in Simmons,” Bick wrote in an email to The Tech. “After these encounters, though, I think Simmons is inspired to keep better records of our art.”

Bick’s email to residents mentioned that Simmons Hall is expected to develop and finalize a chalk policy in the fall. Sendao wrote, “The current chalk policy is not written but culturally understood that people chalk walls in Simmons and most [artworks] are left undisturbed.”

“We are still in conversation with the house leadership… and will continue to work together on how artmaking and creative expression can be supported going forward,” Friedrich wrote.

Friedrich added that the associate provost and DSL were exploring ways to balance students’ creative expression with “our responsibility to responsibly steward and maintain our campus buildings.” According to Friedrich, HRS is currently working with residents of Next House to pilot mural painting on panels.

Friedrich wrote that MacGregor House will also be offline this summer “to complete a project to create new kitchens for each of the entries.”