First year makes noise in quiet dorm
Kalasky adds a few details to his musically inspired whiteboard mural.
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For anyone strolling the labyrinthine halls of Coburn this year, you have probably spent a good deal of time gawking at the stunning masterpieces by whiteboard neo-impressionist Will Kalasky ’15. But who is the man behind door 162, or rather, under Kalasky’s distinguishing head of curls?
According to the freshman, he has been involved in making art for quite some time. “My grandfather was an accomplished watercolor painter,” he said. “He lived in Pennsylvania, but whenever he’d come up to visit my family in New Hampshire, he’d bring all of his materials and work with me and my sister sketching things and doing paintings...That really did a lot to get me interested in art,” he said.
With the guidance of his grandfather, Kalasky began to take his interest more seriously, taking courses and enrolling in camps at the Currier Museum Art Center in his native Manchester, NH. In high school, he was also a writer for his newspaper’s commentary section, where he also contributed political cartoons. Kalasky, who plans to major in government, noted that the provocative nature of the cartoons is what he found most fulfilling, and partly what led him to make the artwork he does today.
“When I first moved into the room this fall, I wanted to get people talking. I started out with open-ended questions or something along the lines of a ‘caption this’ contest.” Kalasky admitted, however, that this effort was not as successful as he had originally hoped. “We didn’t get too much response from that. Days would go by and I would be looking at a blank board. As an artist, seeing a blank canvas like that began to bother me, so I erased it and started doing the murals.” This change ended up being quite successful in Kalasky’s desire to prompt student dialogue in the dorm. “It’s really neat getting to know the people who stop by, knock on the door and want to talk about the artwork.”
Kalasky’s artistic talents are not just limited to drawing and painting. He enjoys film, working primarily with more retro mediums like Super 8 film to shoot everything from trains to comedy sketches, and he finds much of his inspiration in music, dabbling in piano as well as studying music theory. Both of these passions, specifically music, can be seen in his whiteboard pieces. “I’ve done a lot of things—I made a few 1950s monster movie murals for Halloween—but the [majority have] been based on old album covers. When it comes to music, I cast a pretty wide net, but what I really love is 70s art-rock and jazz.” In fact, Kalasky most recent work is an adaptation of the cover of Little Feat’s 1973 album, Dixie Chicken.
While Kalasky has many admirers, like any artist he has critics. Kalasky recalled a particular sequence of events spanning from the end of the fall semester and into JanPlan where an unknown student was running their fingers through the newly drawn works. “I understand that the whiteboard is a transient medium, anybody who just bumps into it could erase it, but these were pretty identical and deliberate slashes.” Instead of responding with anger or ceasing to continue his pieces, Kalasky added some humor to the situation by drawing a mural reminiscent of Golden Age comic book covers complete with a set of menacing eyes and preemptive slashes, which the artist then entitled: “The Whiteboard Vandal Strikes Again!”
“While I had never intended it to be any kind of controversy,” he said, “the Coburn community got really into it and left messages to the guy. I figure it’s best to laugh about it, and needless to say, he stopped.”
With his arch-nemesis thwarted, Kalasky has since returned to drawing the music that inspires him. “They may be genres that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, but there’s some really impressive material from that era.…The other day somebody stopped by to tell me that she grew up listening to this music with her father. The drawings are a really cool way to learn about people you may not get to know otherwise. Certain things have special, individual resonance, which is why I’ll probably keep making them,” he said.