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Smile, You're in Athens: Graffiti makes its mark, leaving a legacy behind

There is nothing more wonderful than walking down the sketchy alley behind Chipotle to be reminded by black spray paint that you are “sexy.” If you are not blind, you might have noticed that some parts of Athens are a coloring book for alternative artists.

Some call it graffiti, some call it vandalism. I call it Athens. 

Humans have been making graffiti since the dawn of time. Marking our territory is a primal instinct that will continue to evolve and give headaches to janitors and administrators until the end of time. I wonder if the cave-custodial staff scolded the Paleolithic painters for ruining their clean stone walls with pictures of bison.

Graffiti in Athens takes many forms, but probably the most intimate and interesting stuff is scribbled inside bathroom stalls. Now, I can only speak for the ladies’ rooms of Athens, but I can imagine the dudes are doodling as well.  

Ah, the drunken manifestos written in the bar bathroom — a barely legible history of ridiculously named shuffles, 21st birthdays and just about every other rant, rave or the classic exclamation: “I’m DRUUNNKK!”

The Shakespeare of restroom graffiti lies within the commodes of Ellis Hall, home of the English and philosophy departments. Years of potty-prose have been miraculously kept intact, spelling out lists of must-read books, Post Secret confessions, and the wisdom of greats such as Einstein, E.E. Cummings and Lady GaGa.

The stalls are autographed like a yearbook, marking students’ finals days, exams and bathroom breaks at OU. I always leave the Ellis ladies room enlightened and will admit to spending several minutes just sitting, enjoying inspirational tidbits such as: “Like the sun we come up and like the wind we go.” To paint over this poetry would be a crime.

Ironically, the custodians in Seigfred Hall do not share the same appreciation of the timelessness of toilet-side art. The only noteworthy bathroom graffiti that hasn’t been removed is: “This way to the Ministry of Magic,” with an arrow pointing down to a toilet on the fifth floor.

I have yet to disprove the statement.

From stalls to walls, the awe-inspiring outdoor Seigfred steps are a shining beacon of artistic expression. Like an Aztec temple, the graffiti-laced stairs lead you up to a perfect place for reflection and graffiti appreciation. Many people admire the Seigfred graffiti wall walking to and from class, but few have discovered the graffiti gallery beneath Glidden.

Under the belly of the music building lies a cave-like museum of graffiti that is like an ultimate rebel clubhouse. If you look beyond those colorful layers of paint, you might just find some existential truths.

Why do people make graffiti?

To be remembered. We all want our legacy to live on after we leave this town. Graffiti is a voice screaming out to the next generation that we were here, we were bold and had something to say. Just like the scribbled “Class of ’93,” our years in Athens will fade and eventually be painted over.  

Whether permanent-marker scribble or spray-paint illustration, graffiti is proof of our vibrant existence. You can find joy in the drunkest of bathroom confessions and the most ornate spray-paint creations if you take a moment to appreciate them.

As you walk around this town, keep your eyes open. Notice how graffiti makes the world more colorful and a little more badass.

How will you leave your mark?

Graffiti — just another reason to smile that you’re in Athens!

Anna Moore is a junior studying magazine journalism and fine arts and is a columnist for The Post. Send her your best graffiti art at


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