Professor of Visual Arts Rebecca Strzelec named 2016-17 Penn State laureate

March 31, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rebecca Strzelec, professor of visual arts at Penn State Altoona, has been named Penn State laureate for the 2016-17 academic year. Strzelec succeeds 2015-16 Penn State Laureate Carol Reardon, the George Winfree Professor of American History at the University Park campus.

An annual faculty honor established in 2008, the Penn State laureate is a full-time faculty member in the arts or humanities who is assigned half time for one academic year to bring greater visibility to the arts, the humanities, and the University, as well as his or her own work. As such, the laureate is a highly visible representative of the University, appearing at events and speaking engagements throughout the Commonwealth. 

Strzelec has been a Penn State faculty member since 2002 and is head of the degree program in visual art studies at Penn State Altoona. Her work focuses on investigating the ways wearable objects interact with the surfaces of the body and includes the creation of these wearable objects through computer aided design (CAD) and rapid prototyping or 3D printing. 

“As an artist originally trained as a traditional bench jeweler who has converted to an entirely digital studio practice, I regularly contribute to conversations about contemporary artistic materials and methods,” said Strzelec. “I have been using 3D printing technologies in my work since 1999. It is exciting to see how theses processes have matured to their current accessibility and attention. These developments have brought significant and meaningful advances in many fields, including health care, safety, architecture, and art and design, while also raising questions of ownership, ethics, originality, and responsibility.”

Strzelec received both her bachelor and master of fine arts degrees in metals, jewelry, and CAD/CAM (computer aided manufacturing) from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

Her work has appeared in more than 65 exhibitions, including “Paper/Plastic: Contemporary Adornment” at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin; “Out of Hand: Materializing the Post Digital” at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City; and “SCHMUCK 2008” in Munich, Germany. Her work can also be found in the permanent collections at such institutions as the Museum of Arts and Design, Racine Art Museum, and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, as well as in private collections, such as that held by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In addition, her work can be seen in several recent works from Lark Books, including "Showcase 500 Art Necklaces," “21st Century Jewelry: The First Decade,” and “Lark Studio Series: Pendants,” as well as in such publications as Metalsmith magazine, The New Yorker, and American Craft magazine.

Strzelec is currently a co-principal investigator on a four-year, $2 million National Science Foundation grant focusing on multi-field responsive origami structures, and she was a 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in Research and Creative Activity Award from Penn State Altoona. In 2009 Strzelec was named a Penn State Alumni Associate Teaching Fellow. She also served as chair of SIGGRAPH 2012 in Los Angeles, an annual conference showcasing the latest in computer graphics and interactive techniques.

Strzelec said her speaking engagements as laureate will range in scale and subject, from intimate “show and tell” talks where audience members can touch and wear her work and other precious objects from her many collections, to critique sessions with art and design students, and large public lectures focused on the relationship between tradition and technology.

“Penn State Altoona recently launched a new lab, the Center for Additive Manufacturing and Printing, or ‘The CAMP.’ The space houses an impressive collection of digital input and output technologies, including 3D printing, 3D scanning, large-format archival 2D printing, and vinyl cutting,” said Strzelec. “The lab will play a key role in my year as laureate, as I invite members of our entire University community and friends of Penn State to contribute their ideas, inventions, and stories to create new images and objects fueled by The CAMP’s resources.”

Penn State President Eric Barron selected Strzelec for the honor at the recommendation of the laureate review committee. The committee was chaired by Blannie Bowen, vice provost for Academic Affairs, and included Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture; Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts; David Christiansen, associate vice president and senior associate dean for academic programs in the University College; Ken Womack, 2013-14 Penn State laureate and former associate dean for Academic Affairs at Penn State Altoona; Bonj Szczygiel, associate professor of landscape architecture and women’s studies in the College of Arts and Architecture; and Ryan McCombie, a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees.

For more details about current and past Penn State laureates, visit Additional information about the Penn State laureate program is available at

  • Rebecca Strzelec Penn State Laureate 2016-17

    Rebecca Strzelec, professor of visual arts at Penn State Altoona, has been named Penn State laureate for the 2016-17 academic year. 

    IMAGE: Marissa Carney
Last Updated April 07, 2016