New art gallery takes shape at Penn State

Penn State's Keller Building is now home to its own art gallery, the result of an inter-department venture.
Penn State's Keller Building is now home to its own art gallery, the result of an inter-department venture. Photo provided

Quietly, an arm of our local art and music community has been growing in the third floor of Penn State’s Keller building, the home of the department of learning and performance systems.

Local musician and learning and performance systems professor Will Diehl — more specifically a professor in LPS’s Lifelong Learning and Adult Education program — has spearheaded a full-fledged art gallery in the midst of the Keller Building. It has bloomed into an inter-department venture including the school of visual arts and, potentially, the school of music. The gallery is going to have an opening event this fall.

“I came up with the idea of creating an art gallery in that space,” Diehl said, “where we could collaborate with the school of visual arts. The idea of this is every year we’ll have a different theme.”

The theme is created by doctoral students from the three graduate programs in LPS: organizational development and change, learning design and technology and lifelong learning and adult education. The group of students from the three programs got together and came up with the theme as an extension of the research the students are doing in their respective programs.

“From that theme we have a call for art that goes out,” Diehl said, “and we went through the first year of that process this year, and the theme that we came up with is 'Evolving Systems, Cohesion Change, and Collaboration.' "

The call for art went out to the Penn State community, but for the current theme submissions are from students in the school of visual arts. More than 20 students’ work will be displayed when the show opens this this fall.

“It’s the entire floor ... all the walls on the entire floor,” Diehl said, “and we put up track lighting. We put up art gallery lighting in the hallway and everything. It’s really great.”

Along with featuring students’ art, Diehl and his co-organizers are looking to bring in students from a variety of programs throughout the university.

“We want to collaborate with as many people at Penn State as possible,” Diehl said, “and running a gallery as well, there’s business involved, there’s marketing, all aspects of running a gallery. We’re planning on bringing in students to collaborate.”

I worked with Diehl when I was a program manager for Penn State’s World Campus and he was the lead faculty for the lifelong learning and adult education program, and he was as thoughtful in that role as he is in this one. As is typically the case with Diehl, he is taking a student-centered approach to organizing this art gallery. It’s a wonderful marriage of his personal identity as an artist, his role as an educator and his essentially affable and corralling nature.

“We’ve had over a dozen students involved in the whole project between ours and the school of visual arts at this point,” Diehl said. “So, this fall we’ll have the art gallery in place, and then we’ll start the process of immediately getting students together and coming up with a theme for next year.”

Diehl was keen to point out the importance of one very special local artist whom made the first year possible: Ruth Kazez.

“She’s a local artist and a friend of Penn State, and she’s exhibited all over the country and won awards. She allowed us to hang her work this past year in the gallery, so all this past year her work was up," Diehl said. "From October until the end of May her work was displayed in the gallery.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.