Like a stereotypical crime scene, the room was in disarray. There were outlines of bodies on the cement floor and an upended chalkboard perched between several chairs set in ritualistic fashion. A cryptic message was scrawled – delicately, painstakingly – onto the board. No signature, but there was little doubt about the two culprits.
Unlike most crimes, these outlaws took nothing. In fact, during their 24-week rampage of CCAD, they merely left something behind, something valuable, priceless even: gorgeous, intricate, inspiring artwork on the large chalkboard. One night each week, they snuck into the Crane building and spent hour after hour “vandalizing” a new masterpiece. The duo was famous on campus but known only by the nom de guerre – “dangerdust.”
The two outlines on the floor were not of victims but of the criminals, frozen in mid-dance jubilation. The anonymous vandals were seniors in graphic design and advertising, and with graduation approaching, this was their farewell coda. The message – “Oh the places you’ll go” – on the Dr. Seuss-themed board was a congratulatory sendoff for their peers, and perhaps for themselves as well.
The whole affair began last September. The two students (they are roommates, said one of the two during a phone interview, still withholding names) sought to create something with their hands after countless mind-numbing hours spent working at computers on graphic design projects. On a whim, having never used chalk as a medium before, they snuck into a building one night and created a simple yet striking drawing with an all-too-appropriate quotation:
Speak softly but carry a big can of paint. – Banksy
They left no trace of who they were, content to let the chalk speak for them. “We didn’t want it to be about us. We wanted it to just be about the artwork,” one said.
The next week they did it again, this time adding a signature, dangerdust, a nod to their faux-criminality and the lungs full of powder they now coughed up. The boards grew in scope and complexity, some whimsical, some hyper realistic, always different, always providing inspiring quotations from the likes of J.M. Barrie, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Philip DeFranco. They posted digital photos of the criminal works to social media, and appreciation for their art grew exponentially, gaining them renown all the way to Germany, Nepal, and Indonesia.
They erased the masterworks every week only to craft new ones. They got lost in designs, up to 11 hours at a time, food be damned. Sometimes the message seemed to apply to the artists most of all.
The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life. – Jessica Hische (week nine)
To this day, they remain anonymous. They set up an Etsy.com shop to sell prints and are looking for new ways to let their vandalism live on.
“I think really our personal work is just going to become dangerdust.”
It was meant to be an escape – a passion project – but dangerdust has consumed them, and the spree isn’t over. Far from it. •
Follow the chalk-art vandals onto the next act at www.instagram.com/ddccad.