Portrait of the CWRU spirit

A bright blue chain surrounds Anna Arnold who is sitting on the ground with students on the edge of her outlined chalk portrait
Photo by Pehel Patel, Class of 2026

As students, faculty and staff bustled in and out of Tinkham Veale University Center on Oct. 6, they passed Anna Arnold (GRS '10, art education) preparing her canvas on the sidewalk.

She walked in a large circle, making fluid sweeps with her extended brush to outline a face. “It’s not one particular person,” she explained, “it [represents] the spirit here.”

Arnold was invited by the Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University to make a chalk portrait—one of her signatures—for the first day of homecoming.

“I love chalk because it’s not permanent,” she said. “One way or another, it gets washed away. It’s there for you for just that little bit of time.”

The mural would be erased by the rain overnight, but not before it was enjoyed by hundreds of students, families, alumni and friends gathering for the homecoming kickoff event, Blue Bash.

Throughout the day, small crowds formed to watch the artist at work, and each time, she would invite them to pick up a piece of chalk and join her. “I want the process to be free,” said Arnold. “I just dive in with my colors and let it evolve.”

A close-up view of the chalk portrait with bright red lips and swirls of green, blue, yellow, pink, orange and purple all over the face

First-year student Julie Petersen took Arnold up on the offer and immediately set to work drawing a bright koi fish while chatting with the alumna about her plans to be an art therapist.

“It’s immerseful,” remarked Petersen, a dual-degree student studying psychology at CWRU and painting at Cleveland Institute of Art. “I’m very glad I got to experience this.”

In December, Arnold will mark 10 years as the director of Wasmer Gallery at Ursuline College. She credits her time at Case Western Reserve with preparing her to be a one-woman team. “It was an intense two years, especially as an older student,” she said, “but it taught me how to not get knocked off course—you regroup and keep going.”

Anna sits on the ground toward the bottom of her mural with a piece of chalk in-hand, smiling at the camera. She's wearing a red hat, purple sweater and the sky behind her is blue. The portrait is a mixture of many bright colors.
Dan Milner Photography