The Michigan Daily Campus Life Beat has put together an interactive map of places to visit across campus and Ann Arbor, as well as important traditions to take part in before graduation. Find the rest of the project here.
At the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street sits Michigan Rock. Covered in various colors over the years, “Rock” is a remnant of one of Michigan’s ice ageswhich was originally deposited by glaciers on the Pontiac Trail.
The rock was moved to Ann Arbor in 1932 to become a memorial for George Washington’s 200th birthday. Although originally painted gray, the Rock has since been continuously painted over by students and community members to leave their (temporary) mark.
The tradition of painting the Rock started in 1953 when an Ann Arbor resident graffitied the Michigan State University logo on the Rock before a week of football games. To show their solidarity with the University of Michigan, some UM students decided to paint over the logo, leading to a tradition of covering the Rock with various paintings important to the Ann Arbor community.
LSA freshman Nikita Hana told The Daily that she believes the tradition has had a lasting impact on the university and UM students.
“It gets stained for a variety of reasons,” Hanna said. “I think it’s important because they are constantly adding to it and nothing is being taken away. It shows what is important to university students. It’s like a story or a book. Also, because it is very high traffic, many people can see what is important to our school at that time. It’s a very public display of what people want to say.”
Although the city of Ann Arbor originally wanted to keep the Rock clean and prevent people from painting it, their efforts were unsuccessful. As the tradition of painting the Rock continues, the Rock is always painted with something new. Many students come together to participate in painting the Rock, including fraternities and sororities, social justice advocates, campus clubs, artists and athletes.
LSA freshman Isha Saini spoke to The Daily about the different paintings she has seen on the Rock since entering the university.
“I remember there was something drawn for MSU shooting, and I know sororities and (fraternities) have drawn it, too,” Saini said. “I know (students) drew it during welcome week as well. I think it’s important that all the previous paintings remain there. It feels like you’re adding to (the University of) Michigan’s history. That’s why it’s still important; it’s a fun way to leave your mark on the school.”
Tradition has made a unforgettable impression on many in the Ann Arbor and UM communities. After seeing him painted, LSA freshman Isabella Brown told The Daily that she realized how Rock brings the campus community together.
“It’s a long tradition, and it’s really nice to have some kind of symbol on our campus,” Brown said. “It’s something students can add and create themselves. They can leave behind pieces of themselves. It creates a legacy.”
Daily staff reporter Madin Shapiro and Alexis Spector can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.