Before you think about entering one of the crowded elevators inside Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre, you might want to consider turning your attention to the stairs. The SLC stairways, found on either side of the elevators on each floor at the end of small dark hallways, can seem almost hidden and undesirable — but that is far from the truth.
Most full-time students may be aware that on every grey wall of the SLC stairways there are chalk illustrations that incorporate motivational words. The most popular drawings are the ones that display different kinds of food with puns, an image of a smiling taco with the caption “Let’s taco ‘bout how awesome you are” and a sketch of a can with the words “You’ve got this, no problem! Can-do attitude.”
Jaleesa Peters, the creative and communications coordinator for the Student Learning Centre, says that the chalk drawings originally started as an initiative to motivate more people to take the stairs. “Using spaces that are usually blank and filling them up with something that can be beautiful or positive and can make you feel good is always a wonderful thing,” said Peters.
The student staff members who work at the SLC take the time every year to create the drawings during their less hectic day-to-day shifts, like on evenings and weekends. “You could stumble upon a specialist drawing them anytime,” said Peters.
Although creating these drawings may seem like a simple task, Peters expressed how a lot of hard work is put into them. “It is priority to maintain them and make them look brand new.”
Every once in a while, team members update the walls with new drawings or work to maintain current illustrations by redoing chalk lines to keep them looking fresh.
However, the staff members who do the drawings are not all art students.
“I have had a lot of student staff who say, ‘I can’t draw’ and end up creating something really beautiful and it’s something that they can be proud of,” said Peters.
Fares El Dweiri is a third-year marketing student who currently works at the SLC and has created one of the drawings inside the stairwell: an airplane surrounded by the words “Let your dreams take flight” in all caps.
Since he was a child, El Dweiri has always had an obsession with airplanes — one so strong that he even considered going into aerospace engineering.
“When I’m bored, I usually go online and track airspaces and their movements,” said El Dweiri, adding that he finds himself sketching airplanes a lot.
Although El Dweiri is not an art student, he still feels passionate about art. “I used drawing as a space where I can take my stresses away, whenever I doodle on my work or I want to get away, I doodle planes,” he said.
El Dweiri also mentioned that since the SLC has a lot of concrete walls, he believes that it’s important that efforts are made to have pops of colour that allow students to feel more engaged with their environment.
Since the chalk drawings have been such a success, Peters said the SLC will continue to develop projects that are art-focused and send positive messages to Ryerson students.
“We do want to keep finding ways to bring in some art and fun where we can,” said Peters.