New Initiative Displaying Student Artwork on Beren Campus

By: Leah Klahr  |  April 19, 2018

This semester, the walls of the Stern college campus have come alive with the powerful and expressive artwork of Stern students. The project was initiated by Dean Nissel, who explained to The Observer, “The concept is mentioned in YU’s strategic plan, which states that [the administration] will ‘enhance the campus and local environments by showcasing student artwork.”

When the third-floor lounge of the 245 Stern building was redesigned this year, Dean Nissel reached out to Mary Creede, SCW art instructor, about decorating the lounge and other campus spaces with student artwork.  “I’ve always informally put up student artwork–mostly on the sixth and seventh floors of 215,” Creede stated. She explained that Dean Nissel’s initiative gave her the “green light,” as well as the funds, to formally install students’ artwork throughout the campus. Together with Studio Assistant, Shira Feen (SCW ‘18), Creede inspected different spaces throughout the campus, and selected the art pieces that best fit those spaces. Feen explained that the process included considerations like wall space, color-scheme, the general mood of the location, and whether the artwork would remain “safe” in that location.

The display of student artwork on campus empowers students to see their environment through the eyes of their peers. For example, paintings and drawings in which art students have captured Stern students eating meals in the cafeteria, have been installed in the Le Bistro Cafeteria. Similarly, the third-floor student lounge is decorated by drawings from Aviva Childress’ (SCW ‘17) Senior Exit Project, called “Subway Musician Portrait Series.” Childress shared with The Observer that the idea behind this project was “to seek out a demographic of people in our daily environment who were paid little-to-no-attention. I wanted to draw attention to, illustrate, and beautify these ‘unsung heroes,’ these people who play roles in our everyday lives while we scarcely spare them a glance.” The placement of these drawings in the student lounge enables students to see and “pay attention” to these “unsung heroes.”

In response to the question of what drew her to donate her senior art project to the Beren campus, Childress explained, “My time at Stern was pivotal in my journey to where I am today, and for that I am eternally grateful. Donating my senior project, the culmination of my years of study, for a couple of years to Stern, felt like a natural expression of my gratitude.”

Rachelli Schechter (SCW ‘17), whose senior exit project called “A Visual History of the Jewish People” has been installed in the Beit Midrash, shared with The Observer that she wanted her artwork to serve a purpose, instead of “just sitting around in closed boxes.” Shechter explained that the piece represents important points of Jewish history, including both the bad and the good. Shechter added that she was delighted with the placement of the piece in the Beit Midrash. “I think that [the location] really represents what the piece is all about,” she stated.

Though multiple pieces have been installed throughout the campus, Creede and Feen are working on ongoing projects, like decorating the Brookdale lounge with students’ graphic design posters. Feen added that she is looking forward to selecting more artwork for this project from the Stern student art show at the end of the semester.  Expressing her enthusiasm for the project, Feen shared, “I think it’s really cool that we’re putting up student artwork around the school because hardly anyone even comes to visit the eighth floor (art floor) of the Sy Syms building, and the student work is amazing.”

“I see this as a win: win: win,” stated Dean Nissel; “A win for students to have their artwork prominently displayed, a win for the SCW art department to showcase the quality and diversity of the art which students produced in their courses, and a win for YU, in beautifying the campus.”