As College of Western Idaho (CWI) Studio Art student, Caleb Chereji, waits for his next class to begin, he sits and studies at a table on the third floor of Nampa Campus Academic Building (NCAB). Right across from his study area hangs a blank whiteboard, which, in just a couple of hours will turn into one of Chereji’s latest art murals.
"I grab an energy drink, grab my whiteboard markers, put my earbuds in, and I just begin to draw,” Chereji said. “It is a lot of fun.”
About two and half hours later, that same whiteboard is now covered inch-to-inch in different characters of students, faculty, and staff you would see around CWI doing various activities. Chereji’s idea for the mural was inspired by the original reason he draws and creates — to help build a positive, encouraging environment around him.
“People come and pass by, take pictures, and smile and laugh when I make funny ones. To me, it’s all about what I can do with my artwork to help raise up an environment for students to feel creative and not pull back from creative pursuits. I do it because I can and because I want to. But most of all, I do it because I have so much support and so many people that love it and support me. That’s what CWI is, and with the friends and instructors I’ve made so far at school, I have felt only that.”
The whiteboard murals around campus began one day last semester as Chereji and his sister were killing time between classes. He looked up at, what he calls now, his 'favorite whiteboard” near room 319 in NCAB and decided to draw on it.
“This is a new skill I have adapted to. I love doing large-scale art now. Instead of a sketchbook, I can just take a step back to see it, and it is so much more. I get enraptured in it.”
Chereji’s love for drawing and the arts dates back as early as he can remember.
“It is like therapy for me. Whenever I am having a bad day, I run to the nearest canvas and start drawing. I see everything as a canvas, I even draw on myself sometimes. I can’t stop creating.”
What started out as something to do between studying and class, has turned into multiple murals around campus with different messages and images — some of which can take up to four hours to complete.
“I made a mural last semester that was a public service announcement on mental health and was about feeling out of character and not like yourself in the world that we live in today. Everything is digital, and there is a lot of anxiety and insecurity. I tried to convey to people they are worth so much more than they think.”
These murals have received a lot of positive attention. From people reaching out to Chereji over social media saying his art pieces have made their day to campus security sharing ideas about his next work of art — even building custodians have shared with him that they won’t erase his artwork because they enjoy it so much.
All the positivity he has received means the world to him.
“I am not going to stop now. It is just so much fun, and as long someone sees it and it makes their day, that is all I need to keep going.”
Chereji’s work around campus has even presented him with several opportunities outside of school, such as being commissioned to create a 50-foot mural on a wall at a local church.
He hopes to continue his murals long after his time at CWI and keep sharing his creativity all over the world, where he wants to wear different hats, such as animator, illustrator, graphic designer, and creative director. He plans to do everything he can with his talents and bring people together through creativity.