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Painting for the Fences

Friday, September 19, 2014

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For 70 years, “The Fence” on the Carnegie Mellon University campus in Pittsburgh has been painted over ... and over … and over again.

In fact, it was painted so much that the Guinness Book of World Records proclaimed it “the world’s most painted object” until it collapsed in 1993.

Carnegie Mellon The Fence
Cam Miller / Flickr

Carnegie Mellon University's student body uses "The Fence" as an unofficial billboard to broadcast messages.

The original fence was wooden and collapsed under its own weight. A concrete fence was erected in its place, and the painting resumed.

Now, hundreds and hundreds of coats layer, students continue to paint in the hopes of surpassing the original fence’s World Record standing.

Why Paint?

The fence is in the middle of campus and, according to an Amusing Planet report, serves as the “unofficial campus billboard” where students paint everything from messages of hope to event advertising to marriage proposals.

There are only two conditions: The fence can be painted only between midnight and sunrise and only using a paint brush.

Then, to prevent someone else from painting over a message, the fence must be guarded.

Frat Boys

Way back when, a valley separated the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now CMU) from the Margaret Morrison women’s school.

The valley was later filled in to create today's open field. But at the time, a bridge connected the campuses. The men of Carnegie used it as a rendezvous spot for the women of Margaret Morrison.

Carnegie Mellon Fence cross section
Laurel Bancroft

"The Fence" is often repainted every 24 hours. Since 1993, the fence has accumulated many paint layers in students' attempt to break its old Guinness Book of World Records record as "the world's most painted object."

In the bridge’s place, school administration built a wooden fence.

A frat then decided to paint the fence as a way to promote a party, which was a huge success; thus, the fence painting tradition began.

Now, groups of students often camp out by the fence overnight to ensure their messages aren’t painted over.

That's no small task: The concrete fence has garnered four inches of paint since 1993.


Tagged categories: Brushes and rollers; Color; Color + Design; North America; Paint application; Schools

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