Encounters: Art in the City Exhibition through May 23

Issue Date: 
May 19, 2014

Pittsburgh has some inspirational examples of art in public spaces. That’s what a group of Pittsburgh high school students learned this spring on city walking tours and in art studio sessions, all led by five Pitt undergraduate students majoring in the history of art and architecture.

Now, installation artwork created by the high school students from the Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy in Oakland will be displayed in Encounters: Art in the City, an exhibition running through May 23 at Pitt’s University Art Gallery, Frick Fine Arts Building.

The five Pitt students participated in this community outreach as part of their enrollment in a Pitt course titled Teaching Art History. The class was developed and implemented by Gretchen Bender, assistant chair and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, who worked in partnership with Emily Lilly, board president at the Pittsburgh Assistance Center for Educators and Students. 

The high schoolers took walking tours of Oakland to see the Carnegie Museum of Art sculpture garden and other sites. Classroom activities included suggesting places for public art in their own neighborhoods and thinking about how local residents might respond. The eight SciTech students, most of them 10th graders, were encouraged to come up with their own themes. Some were inspired by community or the environment, others by such issues as racism, consumerism, or adolescent psychological disorders. A wide variety of materials was used, ranging from fabric and paint on canvas to clay and natural found objects.

“The high school students articulated their ideas using materials that draw attention and solicit curiosity,” said Bender. “Such attention provides a validation, demonstrating that they are valued members and stakeholders in our community.”

The classroom outreach program was made possible through a Service Learning Course Development Grant from Pitt’s University Honors College.