Chalk Space for Analog Art Therapy

SET High students create a collaborative work of art with the message, "ART MAKES ME HAPPY" on the Chalk Space wall.

Chalk Space for Analog Art Therapy

Here at the School for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET High), we encourage our students to focus on passion, innovation, curiosity, and design because we believe this fosters a healthy realistic set of life skills. We also hope the opportunity for students to express themselves with art would help find healing and a sense of community lost during the COVID shutdown. We learned a lot when the Chalk Space wall was created.

Look Who Came to Create

SET High is a free public high school in San Diego, where we guide students through learning journeys by way of discussion, expression, and recognition of our common humanity. When Neil McCurdy first became principal at SET High, he created The Hope Wall, a gray painted wall in which students were given Sharpies to write affirmations and messages of hope for everyone. It worked until a few students snuck in inappropriate messages too small to be captured by the cameras- which created a demand for consistent policing and constant “erasing” of the wall with paint. 

A couple years ago a few students presented the idea of creating a chalkboard-painted wall for the No Place For Hate Challenge. The idea was that the wall would host messages prompted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and students could sign their name in chalk to pledge that together SET High is a No Hate School.

And then COVID shut everything down and the chalk was put away. 

When classroom learning came back, so did the art, and the idea evolved into a community space for students to express themselves in chalk for one day. Chalk Space. Everything would get erased for a fresh slate the next morning. This became a wall for all. What showed up were drawings and messages from those who might not “speak up” otherwise, and groups of students who found strength in collaborating together. 

Collaboration and Connection

Chalk Space gives our students three gifts: expression, community-building, and analog time. This wall gets students off their phones, working together, and expressing their emotions in a healing way. Studies show that art is a therapeutic way to process stress and trauma. 

What else does the wall teach? Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Because of the temporary nature of the chalk and the daily fresh start, students have to be OK with the idea that their creations today will be gone tomorrow. Nothing is sacred. If they want it to last they have to take a photo. For the students who didn’t consider themselves artists, this relieves a lot of pressure, especially because Chalk Space is more than imagery. Students write messages of hope or inspirational phrases, just like The Hope Wall originally intended.

At SET High we believe that everyone is creative, in their own way. Everyone has their own style and that’s something to celebrate. Creativity leads to innovation. We also believe that learning how to express oneself is an essential skill necessary in personal and professional life. Lastly, we believe high school can be a place to thrive. We see how Chalk Space impacts every student in our high school and we appreciate watching how our students take advantage of it. It’s part of the joy and inspiration of our school, watching the students grow. Would you like to grow with us too? SET is enrolling today!

About SET High 

SET High offers each student individual attention from multi-talented, highly qualified teachers. Students build a healthy camaraderie with classmates inside an intellectually rigorous environment that brings out individual talents and personality, helping develop character and direction in life. With a wide variety of electives, flexible scheduling, dual enrollment college classes and more — our students regularly exceed academic and personal expectations. Enrolling now!