Mr. Wash. U. to sell Bear’s Den, Center Court photos in auction
Students have all seen those pictures on the wall in Bear’s Den and Center Court. Now, they have the opportunity to own those special pieces of Washington University history.
An auction to benefit Mr. Wash. U. will be held on Thursday at Ursa’s Fireside at 7 p.m. to sell the photos depicting campus life, which were replaced by photographs of food over winter break.
Michael Offerman, one of four freshman candidates competing for the title of Mr. Wash. U., came up with the idea for the auction.
“The plans for the new Wohl [Center] aren’t complete, but it is unlikely that those photos would be a part of it. We didn’t have any use for them so when the requests came in from Mr. Wash. U. we thought it would be a worthwhile project,” Assistant to the Director of Operations Paul Schimmele said of the auction.
Each candidate must raise a certain amount of money to benefit City Faces, a local initiative that works with inner-city St. Louis children to provide a positive outlet through art. In 2008, Mr. Wash. U. raised about $30,000 for the charity.
Last year, the most money raised by a candidate was $2,000. Offerman hopes to top that goal and said that he is leading in fundraising efforts among the candidates.
Tyler Bertroche, a sophomore who is also a candidate for Mr. Wash. U., has a special relationship with one of the photos. He saw the infamous “singing girls” picture in Bear’s Den with his high school soccer team and remained an admirer of it as a student here.
While with two of his friends, sophomores David Klein and Bryson Tombridge, Bertroche said he remembers thinking, “That picture is ridiculous and I think we could do them one better.”
After taking a spoof clutching an electric razor and a hairdryer, the friends made a $64 poster-sized copy and pasted it over the original picture. According to Bertroche, one manager even said they would put it under glass. It was up for seven days before disappearing.
Shortly afterward, a Facebook group called “I HATE that picture in Bear’s Den” came into existence. The group has slightly more than 200 members.
The infamous picture was taken as a publicity shot for a University play, “Big Love,” in 2003. “If I ever met [the girls], I would tell them that I admire their work and that each person did a great job of creating the emotions that we tried to replicate,” Bertroche said.
The starting bid for the original picture will be $50. Offerman said he hopes that bids for the piece will top $300. So why should students buy it?
“To own a piece of Wash. U. history. To remember their freshman and sophomore years on the South 40 forever and have it immortalized in an image of campus life,” Offerman said.
The auction is being held in conjunction with Mr. Wash. U.’s annual date auction, which aligns with Valentine’s Day to match up students with candidates. Candidates will “sell” for anywhere from $15 to $45.
Jeanette Wong, a junior who is involved with internal fundraising, said, “It’s a fun way to get everyone involved. There’s not only the benefit of giving money to a charity, but also getting to go out on a date with a friend or a crush.”
The photos maintain a cult status on campus, and many are sad to see them go.
“[The new photos] don’t really capture the essence of Wash. U. student life quite as well as the Thurtene and cheerleadering picture,” Offerman said. “Hopefully for the new Wohl Center, they will bring back some more fine pieces of art.”
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Operations and Director of Dining Services Steve Hoffner said that the photos gave the dining halls a familiar feeling.
“This is a different dining establishment than if you went off campus. It customized the space,” Hoffner said.
But Bertroche said he is proud of where the photos are going.
“I think it’s one of the greatest ideas for fundraising a candidate’s ever had,” he said. “It’s sad to see the original go because it means so much to our generation of Bear’s Den eaters. It truly represents the eating experience that is the Bear’s Den.”