Student Alumni Association paints the town blue and gold with new contest


Ally Hansen | Staff Photographer

Students paint the windows at Hemingway’s Cafe.

By Diana Velasquez, Staff Writer

Usually packed with a flurry of students rushing to class, the Forbes skybridge on Monday was congested with Pitt students painting the windows with brightly colored blue and gold Panther paws.

Every year at Pitt, the Student Alumni Association puts on its annual Paint the Town event the week before Homecoming. The week-long event gathers students willing to literally paint the town in Pitt’s colors, from academic buildings to local businesses. From the skybridge, to Pamela’s Diner, to Primanti Brothers, by the end of Homecoming Week Oakland is all dressed up in blue and gold.

The Pitt community is accustomed to the yearly tradition. But this year’s co-chairs and Blue and Gold society members Luke Profy and Erin Casey decided to put a twist on the usual festivities — announcing a $300 prize for the winner of the event’s competition on social media.

Profy and Casey wanted to add a new incentive for Paint the Town this year to get more student groups involved. For the first time, student organizations had the opportunity to paint a business or building of their choosing last week and post it on social media for a chance to win the cash prize funded by the Pitt Alumni Association. They posted pictures of their decorations on Instagram using the hashtag #PaintTheTown2019. The picture with the most likes by Oct. 25 will be declared the winner.

The cash prize was certainly an incentive for some, like Rachel Stackiewicz, a junior communications major and member of the Women’s Choral Ensemble. She said the prize was what drew her to the event because she wanted to raise money for her organization’s trip abroad.

“Somebody in Women’s Choral Ensemble sent us a picture of it to raise money for our trip to Spain if we win the contest … and I just love to paint, and so it’s a great time to raise money for everyone who’s going,” she said.

Multiple student organizations took part in the contest, which had a significant impact on Paint the Town’s numbers — Profy said that participation in Paint the Town this year almost doubled from last year’s.

“It really did work, and the student organizations really seemed to like it,” he said. “Obviously they won’t all win but they really seemed to enjoy the event.”

Profy and Casey planned Paint the Town 2019 a month out. They started with going into businesses and asking for their participation.

This year, however, Profy and Casey encountered something surprising — businesses were approaching them first, asking to take part in Paint The Town. This year, 31 businesses participated, including new participants like Yoga U, Milkshake Factory and the Swanson School of Engineering.

“We had a lot of them actually reach out to us, the Residence Inn on University Place actually said ‘Hey I know you mentioned we could do this a couple of years ago, are we still good to do that?’” she said.

In addition to local businesses, Profy said there were many Pitt-affiliated buildings, such as academic buildings, that expressed enthusiasm for the event.

“The School of Nursing, the English Language Institute, Information Sciences Building those are some of the new ones,” he said. “This year was kind of more interesting because we had more people reach out to us.”

With Pitt’s new athletic branding this year, these new buildings had a chance to make even more of a statement. The SAA was given stencils of the new Pitt Panther logo and of the Cathedral of Learning, which are painted on windows in the new, brighter shades of blue and yellow compared to the old navy and gold colors. Profy said with this makeover, the windows look more striking than usual and serve an innovative way to welcome back alumni.

“They look really great and it’s just a cool way to introduce the new Panther logo to the alumni when they come back,” he said.

Overall, Profy and Casey said they hope students enjoyed the event and take from it a sense of Pitt pride. Paint the Town may seem like a small aspect of Pitt’s Homecoming, but Profy said for many underclassmen it’s one of the only ways for them to feel involved in the festivities of the week, and he hopes that next year their numbers only continue to rise.

“I feel like the underclassman body doesn’t really engage with it that much,” he said. “So I just encourage everyone next year to participate more with the event because it’s a really fun and simple way to get ready and excited about homecoming.”