Carnegie Mellon University

Look! Up There!

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Student Art on Pittsburgh's Billboards

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Four new public artworks created by Carnegie Mellon School of Art students are on display on various billboards around Pittsburgh. The project is a collaborative effort between Lamar Outdoor Advertising and Christopher Sperandio, Carnegie Mellon's Jill Kraus Visiting Assistant Professor of Art.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the students and they've risen to the challenge," Sperandio said. "The ideas they've come up with are highly inventive and can be appreciated by just about everyone."

The selections were chosen by Elizabeth Thomas, former associate curator of contemporary art for the Carnegie Museum of Art and guest curator at The Andy Warhol Museum. Thomas picked:

  • "Splat!" an abstract image of a butterfly;
  • "Activating Art," a concept image of a plank of wood resembling what's behind all the billboards;
  • "Drawing of Pittsburgh," a messy drawing of the Pittsburgh skyline; and
  • "Snowballs from the Freezer," a group project depicting business people frolicking in the snow.

"Splat!" was created by Rachel Renee Stewart and features a beautiful butterfly meeting its messy end in the middle of a car's windshield. The scene was inspired by Stewart's interest in opposites colliding, and in this case, industrialization meeting the environment.

"No butterflies were harmed in the making of this piece," Stewart said.

Blake Unger Dvorchik designed the visual pun "Activating Art," in which the billboard is completely covered with the image of a sheet of plywood, a small blank note tacked to it.

"The idea behind my billboard is to peel back the layers of all the different ads shown over the years, and re-expose the bare wood beneath them," Unger Dvorchik explained.

Amos Levy's "Drawing of Pittsburgh" billboard runs counter to traditional advertising. "I wanted to create something that was the opposite of a flashy, impersonal advertisement," Levy said. "I created a big, loving, sloppy drawing of Pittsburgh. I am excited to see what my design looks like on a huge sign."

The entire class created the billboard "Snowballs from the Freezer." The students chose to reflect the theme of joie de vivre, or "joy of life." On this billboard, businessmen and women are running around a snow-covered playground.

Sperandio created the public art initiative for his Making Mass Media class. He noted, "American companies are becoming increasingly savvy about contemporary art and the new attention that working with artists can bring."

Photo (left to right): Amos Levy, Nathan Lee, Blake Unger Dvorchik, Genevieve Barbee, Rachel Renee Stewart, Megan Pentz and Ali Spagnola

Related Links: School of Art