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CMU Fence painted in Portuguese colors by CMU Portugal students

For 70 years, painting The Fence has been a staple in Carnegie Mellon University culture. Originally built to surround a bridge over a ravine in the early 1900s, the fence is now a way for students and organizations to express themselves artistically. CMU Portugal students painted the fence on the evening of June 10th in honor of Portugal Day.

The students who participated are Hugo Simão (HCII),  Cláudia Mamede (S3D), João Tomé (ECE), Diana Vieira Fernandes (EPP), Luís Gomes (S3D), & Lília Dias (ECE). Here is their account of the evening. 

How did you come up with the idea to paint the fence?

The original idea came up for April 25th (also known as the Carnation Revolution, which ended 48 years of dictatorship in Portugal in 1974; this year, we celebrate its 50th anniversary!), but we had to postpone it due to the cold weather and rain. A fitting alternative was June 10th, the Day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese Communities. Camões is one of Portugal’s greatest poets and he died on June 10th. This day was also a landmark day in Portugal during the New State (or “Estado Novo”) regime led by Salazar. Before the Carnation Revolution, this day was known as “Race Day”, but in 1978, the Third Republic changed its meaning to what it is known for now. Nowadays, we celebrate the unity and cooperation between Portugal and the Portuguese communities around the world.

Did you have multiple design ideas? Who created the final design?

We made multiple PDF designs and had different people contribute ideas at different times. We iterated over a WhatsApp group called “The Fence”. The process was to think beyond the colors that represent Portugal, what symbols would be interesting to represent, and how we distribute them over the fence. In the end, that same night, despite having a design that served as inspiration, as we were having fun and had time, we still decided to incorporate more Portuguese elements. Originally from the design, we only had carnations,  the Portuguese guitar and the caravels and we didn’t know how complicated it could be to make them. As it was easier than expected we decided to incorporate more elements such as sardines, popular saints festivities, grapes and other small characteristic symbols.

Can you describe the evening you painted: What time did you get there? How long did it all take? Any other highlights of the evening?

We arrived at 11:45 at night and were painting until close to sunrise, as the sky began to light up. We thought it was really cool. We arrived tired, after a day of work, but it ended up exciting us and it was fun because we had folklore Portuguese music playing, we were able to laugh with each other and talk while the paint dried between the various layers. As there was some last minute improvisation in some elements that we were going to paint, it was fun that some of those elements were Portuguese “memes”.

The fence was painted with Portuguese colors and symbols, reflecting the country’s cultural heritage and marking the presence of CMU Portugal community in Pittsburg.