Watercolor paintings, emotion-filled photographs, bold quotations and more line the sidewalk outside Chambers Hall at Pitt-Greensburg.
The artwork makes up “Black Lives in Focus,” a multimedia exhibit that puts Black experiences in the campus spotlight.
The exhibit, which comprises 21 art panels and 10 text panels, has traveled to all of Pitt’s campuses, with Pitt-Greensburg being the last stop. The Hempfield campus will showcase the exhibit through April 1.
Pitt-Greensburg President Robert Gregerson said he hopes the exhibit fosters a campus dialogue as students see themselves in the artwork or learn about other perspectives.
“I think art is a way that you can have more meaningful conversations,” Gregerson said. “I think art can be provocative.”
Many pieces in the exhibit celebrate Black culture or advocate for racial justice. The artists and writers featured in the exhibit have ties to Pitt or Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Pamela Cooper, an award-winning artist from Greensburg, has two pieces in the exhibit.
Cooper’s first piece, “At Peace,” is a black-and-white photograph that she took while at church. During the service, her minister’s young son curled up in her lap and fell asleep.
The positioning of the boy’s hands was “expressive” and “poetic,” and Cooper said she “couldn’t help” but capture the moment.
Cooper believes the photograph demonstrates the sense of community, peace and safety found in Black churches.
“(‘At Peace’) definitely shows what it’s like in the Black community in the church realm and how we rely on our spiritual guidance and spiritual beliefs to keep pushing forward,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s second piece in the exhibit is a watercolor portrait of teen singer Keedron Bryant. Cooper titled the painting “I Just Wanna Live” after Bryant’s viral song about police brutality.
Cooper drew from her personal experiences of racial injustice when painting the portrait.
“(‘I Just Wanna Live’) was an outcry of my frustration — and I’m sure of other people’s frustrations — because of the brutality, injustice and not being heard or seen,” she said.
“(College is) a safe haven where you can have an open dialogue, talk freely and learn,” Cooper said.