Beta Bridge painters preserve Tech condolence

Recent Beta Bridge passersby may have been startled to see that one side of Charlottesville's most mutable public billboard seems to be restored to its original brick.

No paint was stripped for this job, however. Some skilled visual illusionists simply painted the bridge to look like aged brick, leaving only the maroon and orange "Hoos for Hokies" message that was painted there on the day tragedy struck Virginia Tech one month ago.

That message resonated powerfully with many affected by the tragedy, since Beta Bridge has long been a favored expression-place for the traditional UVA/ Tech rivalry. The mysterious artists haven't publicly taken responsibility for what the French call trompe l'oeil. But Associate Dean of Students Aaron Laushway says he "watched the painting and chatted with several of the students."

"It was a very interesting, and I believe, representative [of UVA] group," he says. "There were men and women of various ethnic backgrounds and ages. But they weren't with any one particular group as far as I know."

The students spent "at least a couple of hours one morning" meticulously painting the bridge. They told him they had carefully planned the project, matching the colors to the brick walls of an adjacent church. "I believe they meant to send a strong message that this shouldn't be painted over anytime soon," he says.

Beta Bridge paintings are typically far less considered than this one must have been, says UVA spokeswoman Carol Wood, and she expects the elaborate project to discourage would-be painter-overs of the Virginia Tech message. Indeed, the brick illusion has already survived about two weeks, impressively escaping the usual daily bridge re-paintings, says Wood.

According to a 2000 report in the Cavalier Daily, "Our hearts are with you, Sigma Chi" remained unspoiled on the bridge for several weeks in 1982, after a member of that fraternity died and another was paralyzed when the rental truck in which they were riding to a Lynchburg party overturned and was struck by a car. Local Beta Bridge historian Coy Barefoot is not aware of any other long-standing message since the 1970s, when UVA students began painting the bridge almost daily.

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Corrrection: Two students, Brian McKittrick and Chris Meigs, died in the 1982 Sigma Chi accident. Both were first-year rushees, not members, of the fraternity.

3 comments

actually, after sept 11 it was painted all black (and maybe the date?) and that stayed put for several weeks at least

This is a good thing.

Yes, this is a good thing.