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University Museum visits The Artists Hand

Local coffee shop, venue and gallery The Artists Hand will be displaying works from the University Museum’s permanent collection from Thursday, April 3, to May 4.

The exhibit, titled “University Goes Downtown,” will focus on pieces dealing with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic piece of legislation.

Sandy Trimble, manager of The Artists Hand, explained the exhibit as a way for the University Museum to gain exposure in the community.

“The IUP Museum has a permanent collection, but a lot of it never gets out of storage,” Trimble said.

“We thought it would be a good idea to give the permanent collection a chance to be seen,” she said.

Trimble said the exhibit was meant to focus on female artists as well as African-Americans, reflecting the current struggle for gender equality in 2014.

The work of one artist in particular, Ben Shahn, occupies a majority of the exhibit’s space.

Shahn was a Lithuanian-born artist who worked in America from the early 1930s until his death in 1969.

He was heavily involved in the American politics of his times, and much of his art reflected his left-wing beliefs.

Shahn’s career spanned an astonishing amount of history, from the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti to the Great Depression to World War II and beyond.

Some of his most striking pieces in the exhibit are a trio of portraits.

The summer of 1964, known as “Freedom Summer,” had civil rights workers attempting to register as many African-Americans as possible to vote in Mississippi, a state that had historically excluded this group from voting.

Three of the workers were infamously murdered during this campaign.

Shahn’s striking portraits render the men’s features colorless, impairing the viewer’s ability to make any judgments based upon the race of the subjects.

Shahn also includes spiritual text with his visual work.

Shahn sometimes pairs Hebrew text with his graphics to connect the struggle of African-Americans in the middle of the 20th century to Jewish Americans in the 1960s.

Other artists featured in the exhibit include story-quilt artist Tina Brewer, currently living and working in Pittsburgh; painter Norma Morgan; and folk artist Ruby C. Williams.

Brewer’s medium may be unfamiliar and odd to some, but she said she hopes her work conveys a sense of African- American heritage through the story quilt.

Brewer’s website says that she is “passionate about giving dignity to the human suffering of a stolen people.”

Brewer also hopes “to inspire research and exploration for other people about issues, for example, what it is to be a woman, particularly an Africa-American woman.”

The mission of the University Museum is to bring the material history and arts of the region together in an environment that encourages exploration, dialogue and enjoyment, according to the IUP website.

The University Museum provides regular exhibits throughout the year and smaller exhibits throughout the campus and community with short-and long-term displays.

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