Chalk It Up to IUP: Recent Art Education Graduate Draws Crowds with Programs for Corps of Engineers

Posted on 8/20/2014 3:21:09 PM
Student Olivia Mays at chalk the walk project she organized for Army Corps of Engineers

Chalk it up to what she’s learned at IUP: Recent Art Education graduate Olivia Mays ’14 is drawing big crowds with an annual sidewalk chalk-drawing contest she runs for the Army Corps of Engineers at Raystown Lake, Pa. This year's event, organized by Mays, takes place Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.

Mays, who works for the corps during the summer, started the event four years ago, while a student at IUP, as a way to use art to educate the community about water safety.

She plans and executes the event, collects donations for prizes, and handles publicity with the local news media.

Each year, the crowd has grown, reaching 100 contestants and about 500 spectators. Mays said the spectators vote on the chalk drawings, which helps them remember the safety messages.

She credits IUP’s annual chalk-on-the-walk for inspiration and her experiences as president of the IUP student chapter of the National Art Education Association for equipping her to lead the project. In May 2015, the IUP student group was awarded Outstanding Student Chapter based on the year 2013-14, when Mays served as president.

The active student chapter of NAEA is one of the main reasons Mays chose IUP for her education. The chapter sponsors exhibitions and speakers, promotes the exchange of ideas in art education, and promotes careers in art and arts education to high school students.

“The leadership I learned by planning programs for the IUP student chapter of the NAEA is what really helped,” Mays said.

Students Andrea Petrillo and Rachel Knopf, fellow officers of the IUP NAEA chapter, have assisted Mays in the chalk contest. 

The Army presented Mays with an Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, and the Corps of Engineers is starting to do art initiatives at other lakes now, tapping the step-by-step information she’s provided in her reports.

Mays has also organized mural painting projects for local high school students.

“The art classes and education classes I’ve had at IUP made me more comfortable with knowing what different age groups can do with art and what materials they’ll like,” Mays said. 

Photo of chalk drawing

Participant Graham Curtis’s artwork. By voting on the drawings, May says, spectators remember  better the water safety educational messages conveyed.

—Marilyn Kukula, IUP Communications and Marketing Office