According to the Guinness Book of Records, up until 1993, a structure installed in the middle of the Carnegie Mellon University’s campus simply known as “The Fence,” was the most painted object in the world.
To some it’s just a colorful fence. To others, it’s a symbol, a tradition, a part of the institutional memory that lives.
The landmark is so respected and protected that there are strict rules on repainting the fence that include using brushes rather than rollers, covering the entire structure and decorating it exclusively between midnight and sunrise.
Those who want to ensure their message is not painted over must post at least two people to “guard” the fence, camping out overnight in a tent if necessary. They sometimes bring sleeping bags, a barbecue and music.
In 1993, the fence collapsed under layers and layers of paint. The new structure was erected in the same place to continue the tradition. The fence has served as a rallying point for issues big and small around campus for decades.
In March of 2011, the unthinkable happened. A group of freshmen defaced the fence using a hacksaw. Before any serious damage was done, a group of CMU students intervened to stop the vandals.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported an outrage over the egregious offense. The outrage spilled over online.
“This was where I was for the vigil the night of 9/11/01. This (was) where I announced to my friends (who were camping there that night advertising a Scotch and Soda show) that I’d just gotten engaged,” wrote an online reader. “The paint has become physically integral to the fence! In many ways, the paint IS the fence, representing the years of events it has been used to advertise, celebrate, and remember.”