What public art would you like to see on Pitt’s Oakland campus?

But is it art? sign


At an event last week to kick off an Art on Campus initiative, Nancy Tannery and Beth McGrew poured water over a sign that slowly revealed the phrase “But is it art?”

“The idea was that there were so many questions that define us as a culture that art has made through the decades that maybe there is no one way,” said McGrew, associate vice chancellor, Planning, Design and Real Estate. “You can enhance your experience of art by reading about theory or you can choose to just experience it.”

McGrew and Tannery, assistant provost, are heading the Art on Campus committee, which is part of the Year of Creativity. The Jan. 20 kickoff event, hosted by Provost Ann Cudd and Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operation, was intended to get people to start thinking about public art, Tannery said.

About 40 people showed up on the cold, dry day next to Tony Smith’s “Light Up” sculpture on Posvar Plaza.

“Public art makes the campus a more vibrant place to visit, and special for visitors, faculty, staff and students,” Cudd told the crowd, according to @Pitt.

“We all know that public art matters to our community, providing social and cultural value,” Scott said. “Together we will advance the University of Pittsburgh as a destination for the world to see, demonstrating our continued commitment to the arts.”

Those at the event were asked to fill out cards about what art they’d like to see on campus. Tannery and McGrew said some of the cards contained very specific ideas and drawings. One that seemed particularly interesting to them was creating lights sculptures on Pitt buildings that relate to how much energy the building uses.

They hope to get more cards out on campus for people to comment and to add a comment section to the new website, art.pitt.edu, which will eventually showcase the public art Pitt already has.

So far, the initiative as set up a steering committee to look at the art on campus strategically and discuss what art Pitt wants to add and where to put it — “There aren’t a lot of open spaces,” Tannery said.

The committee will try to establish guidelines of how to put art on campus, particularly if it is funded by donated money. It also is looking at temporary works of art that could come to campus, like the “Lest We Forget” exhibit that visited last fall. A piece was suggested, McGrew said, but they are looking at ways to fund it. They also are talking with Cudd and Scott about how art might be funded on campus.

Separately, the chancellor’s office had given a $49,000 research grant to the University Art Gallery, University Library System, Frick Fine Arts Library and Department of the History of Art and Architecture last semester to begin a pilot project to research and catalog all public art at Pitt and the many pieces inside several campus buildings.

The research group and the public art committee are now coordinating their efforts.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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