University Commons Constructed Artfully in More Ways Than One

Carlow University’s University Commons has an emphasis on art with the new gallery and a public art project by internationally renowned artist, Diane Samuels.

University Communications For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director, Media Relations September 15, 2015
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Internationally Acclaimed Artist Diane Samuels Is Commissioned for Public Art Project in Building

Pittsburgh, Pa. – One aspect that has been missing at Carlow for some time has been a true art gallery space, but that situation has been remedied in the new University Commons.  A large space just to the left as visitors enter on the second floor has been reserved as an art gallery, which will be co-directed by Carlow faculty members Bill DeBernardi and Sylvia Rhor, PhD.

“I’ve been an advocate of university art galleries for a long time,” said Rhor, who teaches art history at Carlow. The idea is that it is not just an art gallery, but it also serves to further the mission of the university and connect across campus. For me, it’s an expanded teaching space: a place to teach experiential learning and discuss core themes.  This space will very much be a teaching gallery.”

Art is not just reserved for the gallery, either.  Carlow has commissioned Diane Samuels, an internationally acclaimed artist and co-founder of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, to create a permanent public art project in the building.  The project, titled “101 Poems,” will not be installed immediately, but will take several months to come to fruition.  The idea is to integrate poetry into the bricks and mortar of the building.  Poems will be chosen from a number of sources, including historic documents, writings of the Sisters of Mercy, as well as work from Carlow students, alumni, and faculty.

“Diane will work really closely with us to amass a set of poems to really voice who are are as a community,” said Rhor, who described the work as a lyrical piece that will lead people through the building.  “She has really done a lot of research about Carlow.”

One of Samuels’ considerations when planning a work of public art is to keep in mnd the people who will use the space on a daily basis.

“When I make a proposal, I make a general proposal and then I like being part of the community – as much as an outsider can,” she said.  “I will be spending time in the new building, meeting people, asking what they think, asking if they have favorite poems or tests that they would like me to include.”

She plans to spend a great deal of time in the University Commons, gaining an appreciation for how the space is used by students, faculty, and staff, and getting a feel for which poem or prose will suit a particular spot in the building. She also plans to spend a lot of time in both the university’s archives and the International Poetry Forum’s archives, which are housed in the University Commons.

“I love archives. I love research. I’m not a scholar by any means, but I’m a complete admirer of writing and great literature,” said Samuels. “Probably about 20 years ago, I figured out a way to pull the two of them together.”

Samuels said the idea for her University Commons’ project springs from her admiration for Carlow’s creative writing department, from the MFA program to Madwomen in the Attic and the International Poetry Forum.

“As for the idea of the project being 101 poems, I thought it would be nice to scatter poems – both large and small – throughout the University Commons,” she said.  “Some you will see in the atrium. Some will be so small that you won’t notice them for a long time: a tile in the elevator, a bookmark in a book.”

She envisions it as a mixture of mediums, too; some on aluminum, some more like signage, while others may be in different handwriting or printing.

“I’d like to use a variety of materials and shapes,” said Samuels.  “I’m hoping we can even do some of the poetry for people with vision impairments. People can touch the poems or maybe put their ear to the poem to hear it in audio.”


About Carlow University
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929. Offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, Carlow University is a comprehensive master’s institution dedicated to learner-centered education at the collegiate levels and at the elementary school level in the Campus School of Carlow University.

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