Built in 2008 and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, Cornerstone Arts Center is one of the newer and more modern buildings at Colorado College, though it is also perhaps the weirdest. Performances and art exhibits aside, the building itself is rather quirky. One particular feature of Cornerstone that is often overlooked are the two-story walls of blackboard that line the elevator and main staircase. While it is a mystery as to why these walls were ever included in the first place, they have been put to use by Andrew Manley–the man behind the chalk.
“Other people used them a bit more in the early days, but now it seems to be just me,” said Manley lightheartedly. As it turns out, Manley has been the driving force behind much of the creativity that finds its way onto the walls. In the past, they have been lined with a variety of art-related topics, such as quotes about theater, directing, film, or even Shakespeare. “I’ve sort of appointed myself to do the blackboards because otherwise they’re blank . . . One time I wrote a whole play up there,” laughed Manley. Most recently, he made use of his knack for writing in straight lines to fill the walls with Shakespearian insults (“Away, you three-inch fool!”).
It is almost impossible to enter Cornerstone and miss these walls, especially if you have class there. Manley understands the woes of the Block Plan, and he hopes that his pseudo-exhibit can provide inspiration and motivation when students need it most: “Often you do classes in here and you get bogged down from the everyday of the class and lose sight [of the arts].” According to Manley, having statements reflecting art is important in developing a healthy atmosphere for an arts building, even if not every class in Cornerstone has to do directly with fine arts. “I do think the building is rather brutal,” he said. “And I think having something on these walls softens that. It says almost immediately, ‘this is an art building.’”
This isn’t to say that only art students who find themselves stuck in Cornerstone should experience Manley’s chalk display; rather, he hopes to catch the eye of anyone who passes by: “Arts are sort of undersold on campus, really,” he said. “[Comparatively], America is not a very artistic country, dare I say, and I think we need to take every opportunity to push art’s importance in people’s lives.” Art should be present in anyone’s life, in some shape or form, and Manley aims to draw it out. “Art is in our DNA in many ways, isn’t it? So to stick it up on the wall makes it much more present,” he commented.
After he gets around to erasing the slew of Shakespearian insults that fill the walls from the floor to the ceiling (which is apparently a huge pain to do), Manley isn’t totally sure of what to do next. “My wife is an artist so we’ve done some with drawings. I’d like to do more of that—more visual stuff to support quotes or words,” he said. In any case, he wants the board beautiful and inspiring.
However, Manley will eventually have to pass the torch. “I’ll have to retire one day; it is a thought I have. I’d hate to see [the walls] blank or with just any old thing, then it’s just a mess,” he contemplated. Though the job may seem daunting, Manley welcomes students to do some work themselves. And hopefully, one day he will find someone who will keep the atmosphere alive.