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March 9: Carnegie Mellon School of Art Students To Display Work on Local Billboards


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon School of Art Students
To Display Work on Local Billboards

PITTSBURGH—Four new public artworks, created by a group of Carnegie Mellon University School of Art students, will be displayed on various billboards around the Pittsburgh region beginning April 1. The public art project is a collaborative effort between Lamar Outdoor Advertising and Christopher Sperandio, the Jill Kraus Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon.    

Sperandio created this public art initiative for his class, "Making Mass Media." In January, Sperandio contacted Lamar Outdoor Advertising about using billboards as a place to train students in creating new graphic artwork for the general public. Lamar provided the use of four 11' x 24' billboards in various locations around Pittsburgh.  

"It's great to see such forward thinking by Lamar Outdoor Advertising. American companies are becoming increasingly savvy about contemporary art and the new attention that working with artists can bring," Sperandio said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the students and they've risen to the challenge. The ideas they've come up with are highly inventive and can be appreciated by just about everyone."    

Students designed new art specifically for the Pittsburgh audience. Sperandio asked Elizabeth Thomas, the new Phyllis Wattis MATRIX curator in Berkeley, Calif., to make the final selection from the array of student works. Thomas was the associate curator of contemporary art for the Carnegie Museum of Art and a guest curator at The Andy Warhol Museum.    

Thomas chose "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 of business people frolicking in the snow. (See descriptions below for more details.)    

"Carnegie Mellon has a long history of fostering the inter-relationship of art and public life," Thomas said. "Christopher Sperandio has created an unprecedented opportunity for Carnegie Mellon art students to make work for the public realm. These collected works, which take advantage of scale, visibility and conventions of commerce, will no doubt provide Pittsburgh drivers with fodder for reflection, amusement and engagement."     

Students in the Making Mass Media course have created, where people can learn more about their artworks. On Friday, April 20, they will present "Caught Looking," a screening of new video art on the scoreboard at PNC Park.

Note to Editors: Photos of the billboards are available by request.


About the Billboards:

  • School of Art senior Rachel Renee Stewart created the "Splat!" billboard. In the middle of a car's windshield a beautiful butterfly meets a messy end. Its smashed body and legs are made of a gooey blob of paint flung at the surface. This constructed scene comes from Stewart's interest in opposites colliding, and in this case industrialization meets the environment. "No butterflies were harmed in the making of this piece," Stewart said.
  • Senior Blake Unger Dvorchik designed the billboard "Activating Art," a visual pun. The billboard is completely covered with the image of a sheet of plywood, with 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 said.
  • Senior 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. The artwork is a lighthearted message of fun.