It’s written in red high above the front door.

The sign⁠—hand-painted against a yellow backdrop⁠—declares: “This is the place.”

It first caught Squeak Meisel’s eye during a self-directed residency in downtown Los Angeles during the summer of 2015. It spoke to him. It⁠—along with the Nickel Diner’s warm hospitality and famed maple-bacon doughnuts⁠—made him feel welcome. It also made him want to share the sentiment with students.

“I thought it was an interesting assertion: ‘This is the place,’” says Meisel, chair of the Department of Art at Washington State University. “I feel that way about the art department. There’s no other department at WSU that looks like ours.”

When he returned to LA the following summer, he frequented the Nickel Diner and snapped a photo of its vintage sign. That fall semester, he brought the saying to the Pullman campus.

Meisel (’02 MFA) projected the words onto a large sheet of paper and used a Sharpie to make his first version of the sign, displaying it high above the front doors of the Fine Arts Building. He still has that paper sign; it’s rolled up in a corner of his office.

Today, a more permanent version greets students, staff, faculty, and visitors alike. Meisel created that one, too, with a white backdrop. But the words are the same: “This is the place. There is no place quite like this place anywhere near this place so this must be the place.”

The aim is to welcome and to inspire and to build a sense of community.

“Making art is all about perspective,” says Meisel, who’s served as department chair since 2016. “I was just trying to lean into our uniqueness.”

Meisel returned to LA just before assuming the leadership role, revisiting the now-closed Nickel Diner. He was greeted like a longtime patron—like this, indeed, was the place.

“It was always friendly,” Meisel says. “There was a positive energy.”

Lauded by late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold as well as Food Network star Guy Fieri, the Nickel Diner operated on South Main Street from 2008 to 2023. The sign, believed to date to the 1940s, was discovered during renovations of the once-abandoned space.

Meisel began teaching at his alma mater in 2004, first as an adjunct, then as a tenure-track professor. He achieved full professor in 2024.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the department sent postcards printed with the words to newly admitted students as a way to connect. Some of those students still have their postcards taped to the walls of their studios.



Squeak Meisel’s website

The WSU Fine Arts Center