Adult education professor organizes student art gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ask any Penn Stater where to see art on the University Park campus and they'll likely say the Palmer Museum of Art, not Keller Building. But that may soon change.

The third floor of Keller Building is home to the College of Education's Department of Learning Performance Systems (LPS). The department, which houses primarily graduate-level programs that explore technology and globalization of education in general, workforce and adult education, underwent renovations in 2014 that left the halls empty and uninviting.

"A few years ago our department head at the time sent out a survey to get feedback on what to do with the space," said William Diehl, assistant professor of education (adult education). "I thought that this could be a great opportunity for our students to collaborate with students from the School of Visual Arts (SOVA) on a yearly basis. We have great talent here at Penn State, and this project provides a space for interdisciplinary research and a chance for graduate students to collaborate and to gain practical experience on campus."

Once the idea was planted in his mind, Diehl asked Steven Rubin, associate professor of art in SOVA, to help facilitate a partnership between his school and LPS.

"I just had this idea and ran with it," Diehl said.

That idea was to transform the third floor of Keller Building into an amateur art gallery that would reflect the talents of student artists as well as student researchers. With leadership from graduate students Kristina Davis (SOVA), Leslie Cano (Lifelong Learning and Adult Education), Leila Farzam (Workforce Education and Development) and Adelaine Muth (SOVA), more than a dozen students from both colleges already have participated in the planning meetings.

The administrative staff and leadership in LPS also have made valuable contributions to the space. The gallery will span approximately 1,500 square feet of space and, like a traditional art gallery, will have rotating themes on which exhibits will be based. Graduate students from each unit will join Diehl, Rubin and other faculty members to discuss and propose themes based on the research faculty and students in LPS conduct. Then, visual arts students will channel their artistic talents and create pieces based on that research.

Although plans still are being finalized, Diehl and Rubin plan to include faculty, staff and students from both departments, as well as local artists, on the curating committee. Eventually, Diehl said, he also would like to include alumni in the process.

Wiring and track lighting for the new gallery were installed this past summer and paintings by Ruth Kazez, a local artist, were hung at the end of October.

"Because we are still in the planning stages for student art, we wanted to make sure we were utilizing the space in the meantime," Diehl said. "Ruth is a friend of Penn State and a wonderful local artist whose work has been displayed previously in the HUB. She is an award-winning artist who has displayed her work in dozens of gallery spaces and we are fortunate that she accepted our invitation to display her work."

Those interested in viewing Kazez's work can visit the gallery Monday-Friday during regular business hours.

Next fall when student work is displayed, Diehl plans to host an official grand opening ceremony and is hoping to include even more Penn State departments, such as the School of Music and the School of Hospitality Management, in the festivities. "We are actively looking for students from other disciplines who have an interest in participating in our project,” Diehl said.

"I see this gallery as a great way to bring together different programs at Penn State and highlight the different talents of our students. There also are practical applications, such as students learning how to run a small gallery, and it will be interesting to see what research rises out of this," Diehl said.

"Yes, we get to decorate our walls but it is about more than that," he added. "It's about our students."

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Last Updated November 27, 2017