Chalking up school spirit

Second annual chalk art contest provides socially-distanced outlet for individuals, clubs

Nandika Mansingka
Mercury Staff

Several individuals and organizations came together to decorate campus grounds with spirit-themed artwork, kicking off the second year of the UTD Chalk Art Contest.

The event is a relatively new addition to the traditional February Homecoming schedule and was one of its few approved in-person events this year; but due to the snowy inclement weather, the contest was moved to March.

Director of Student Development Briana Lemos said the contest was a way to get students on campus safely and allow them to engage in a fun activity that many people were missing. By the end, seven completed pieces were located near the Activity Center spirit rocks.

“Me and a couple of staff members started talking about how art on campus is so important, and we have so many talented students and chalk art is so popular in the DFW community. There’s lots of contests and exhibits you can see, so we thought ‘why not try this?’” Lemos said. “It was a huge success the first time we did it, and so we wanted to keep this a tradition as part of homecoming.”

Each piece was required to follow the general theme of ‘I love UTD,’ and students received roughly an 8×8 square foot space to design. COVID-19 guidelines were followed by separating each workspace by several feet, requiring masks and only allowing one student per group to work at a time. Winners were announced through social media a few days after the event through Instagram story via the @official_temoc account, judged by Lemos’ staff.

Computer science freshman Jocelyn Heckenkamp participated in the contest with members of her cross-country team. She and her team won first place for Best Use of Theme.

“It was more of a bonding thing; we did not expect to win at all,” Heckenkamp said. “We’re all STEM majors. We usually don’t do that kind of stuff in school or in our free time. But it was kind of a little taste of normal to do something in person because obviously, we haven’t had that many in-person events.”

Their piece incorporated various signature elements of both UTD and Dallas; Heckenkamp said that her group wanted to try to depict different themes, similar to a mural style.

“Temoc was in the middle,” Heckenkamp said. “And then we put the Dallas Skyline behind him and comets in the background. And then we tried to incorporate parts of the UTD campus, so we put the Plinth and the Love Jack.”

Software engineering senior Gemaris Velazquez won first place for Most Creative art piece. Velazquez said she was experienced in chalk art, having participated in the annual Via Colori Chalk Art Festival held in Houston, which draws people from all over the country.

“I did Via Colori with an organization in high school, and I enjoyed doing that and I wished to do more things like that,” Velazquez said. “I enjoy creating art, despite my major being software engineering, because it’s a nice break from all of the technical workload. So being in the zone for four hours just working and creating and using my abilities to create something out of nothing was wonderful.”

Velazquez created a piece depicting Temoc riding a Starship delivery robot dressed up as a mechanical bull. Velazquez said she wanted to incorporate some of the official and unofficial UTD mascots, with just a hint of Texas added in.

“I think it was great that they had this event and that they ran it the way they did,” Velazquez said. “Lots of people passed by safely and admired our work, and I experienced one last in-person event before cut to graduation. I hope more people find out about and participate in these homecoming events.”