Housing painting over murals

In the North and South House undergraduate residences, the walls are filled with colors and murals. The murals have been put up continuously over the years and represent a history of student life.

In order to put up a mural, the design has to be approved by both the members of the house and by housing. Caltech Housing’s website states that their mural policy is in place to “support self-expression and also help foster an enjoyable and safe living environment for all house members.”

Though the mural policy has changed over the years, in some cases, offending murals have been unofficially grandfathered in. However, as stipulated by the Housing Office, “murals are not permanent” and are subject to removal to create new opportunities for future students to paint murals. And indeed, some murals were painted over during the summer, and more are scheduled for this term. For example, the _South Park _mural in Ricketts House’s Broken Cherry alley was recently removed due to its stereotypical depiction of Asian characters, which was perceived as racist.

While painting over murals does create empty wall space to allow new murals to be put up, some students are upset about this change. Murals that were flagged by Housing include several containing references to alcohol or other drugs: in particular, Lloyd’s iconic “Enjoy Crack” mural, and a painting of Duff, the fictional beer from The Simpsons.

In addition to the murals that violate the policy due to their content, some have been flagged due to their placement over electrical panels or ceiling hatches that are supposed to be clearly marked and findable by someone unfamiliar with the houses in an emergency. The anamorphic mural in Dabney House’s Alley 7 is one example.

Other murals that have been left unfinished are set to either be finished or painted over.

While painting over murals does erase a certain history, it does not erase student culture, as it gives new students a blank canvas to put their own artistic endeavors on. All art is transitory, just on different time scales, the continuous cycle of death and rebirth, or painting the walls white and covering them with new murals is in itself art and is necessary for the continuation of the tradition of painting murals.

Lilia Arrizabalaga is the steward for Dabney House, and serves as one of the primary liaisons between students and the Housing Office.