Most graffiti artwork is frown upon in society as being vulgar or a nuisance to the public eye, but here on Rocky Top, not only is it tolerated, it is encouraged.
University of Tennessee students are encouraged to spray paint the Rock, located on the corner of Pat Summit and Volunteer Boulevard, when memorable moments happen in their lives. The Rock serves as a canvas for free speech on campus since the 1960s, inviting all to have their voice displayed on its surface.
There is one Tennessee Vol whose artwork has attracted thousands of visitors to flock to the Rock.
Each Friday night before a football game around three in the morning, senior Payton Miller spray paints the rock with colorful masterpieces including iconic figures such as Smokey, Butch Jones, and Josh Dobbs. She has painted the Rock before every football game since her sophomore year. Her work has been captured on several local news stations as well as the national SEC network.
One of her most famous paintings was in memory of Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt after her death in June of 2016. This mural stayed on the Rock for over a month before it was defaced, and then repainted, making it one of the Rock’s longest unchanging murals.
Many different groups on campus have advertised events, displayed their pride for UT, and even more recently, painted political messages for all campus to see, at least for just a little while.
Whatever you decide to paint, as with all canvases for free speech, remember it reflects on University of Tennessee as a whole, so make sure the message matters to you.
Don't forget to come out to the Rock's 50th birthday this Friday!
Lead Credit image: Corinne Schnadelbach