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Intercampus community art project cultivates meaningful student connections

MERGE exhibition opens Feb. 22 at California, Clarion, Edinboro campuses

The Western Pennsylvania “MERGE” exhibition, featuring visual art and poetry created by students from California, Clarion and Edinboro universities, will be on display at each of the three campuses Feb. 22 through March 1.

Last fall, all students – both art majors and non-art majors alike – were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about the planned integration of California, Clarion and Edinboro* through a creative medium of their choice. More than 60 student pieces, including photographs, prints, haiku poetry and photos of 3-dimensional artwork, were submitted for the tri-campus showcase in response to one of three prompts:

  • What is your most powerful campus memory?
  • What excites (or terrifies) you about your education?
  • What does MERGE mean to you?

“The goal of MERGE was to spark connections among students and art faculty at each of our three geographically distant campuses and to provide a platform for students to express their responses to integration,” said Lisa Austin, director of Edinboro’s Bruce Gallery. “The resulting artwork embody everything from frustration and uncertainty to hope and optimism.”

Merge

Austin invited Erie artist-educator Kelly Armor to work with faculty members Kaersten Colvin-Woodruff (Clarion) and Laura DeFazio (California), along with student leaders Ritchard Watzlaf and Joshua Getchen (California); A.J. Howard and Emily Campbell (Clarion); and Mary Olyer, Olivia Robertson and Hannah Espinosa (Edinboro) to organize the MERGE project. Zoom programming enabled students from all three campuses to collaborate on the planning and curation processes.

“It invites students to explore ideas of identity for our campuses, and/or what this merger might mean for them,” said DeFazio, who has taught sculpture and drawing at California since 1997. “We are excited to see what this MERGE means to our students, and share it with the community.”

Students were required to submit three copies of their work, which will be displayed simultaneously in California’s Vulcan Hall, Clarion’s Empty Set Gallery and Edinboro’s Bruce Gallery. Hours are as follows:

California University’s Vulcan Gallery
Vulcan Hall, Room 110

Monday through Friday: 10 am until 5 pm

Clarion University’s Empty Set Gallery
Marwick-Boyd Fine Arts Center

Monday through Friday: 10 am until 5 pm

Edinboro University’s Bruce Gallery
Doucette Hall, 215 Meadville Street

Monday through Friday: 3-6 pm

“To me, ‘merge’ means opening new doors to things we might never have known existed,” Clarion University student Madison Rocap wrote in her artist statement. “Each university sees itself as a separate entity, but in actuality, we exist harmoniously within the same space. Before now, there were opportunities unique to a certain location that, despite our decisions to come to our chosen college, we might have longed to experience something out of our reach. This merge, however, allows us to try those things that were previously unattainable and, consequentially, meet new people separated by the distance. Together, we make up a kaleidoscope of chance encounters, just waiting to be discovered.”

An opening reception will be held at each campus on Tuesday, Feb. 22, beginning at 6 pm Attendees will have a chance to virtually interact with students from all three campuses. For more information about MERGE, visit www.brucegallery.info/merge.

*Pending approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Photo: Edinboro students Natalie Armes and Bayley Ranck at the Western Pennsylvania “MERGE” exhibition.

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