‘My heart and my spirit are really full right now’


The Black Lives in Focus initiative kicked off on Sept. 9 with a public reception at the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel lawn, where 30 panels of art and text are displayed.

The outdoor art exhibition is one of the four inaugural projects in the initiative. The panels show work from 17 artists created in a variety of styles, including ceramics, video, painting, drawing, quilt making and 10 text contributions from community members.

Sylvia Rhor, director of the University Art Gallery and co-organizer of the initiative, said she was excited for the opening of the exhibition, which is sorely needed on Pitt’s campus.

“I really think the University needs to do a better job representing, you know, our BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) community — faculty, students and staff,” Rhor said. “And this, I think, is the first step, and I really have loved working with the team that has put this together. But in particular, the artists many of whom are emerging artists, students here who I’m happy to have been part of a platform to give them more of a voice and visibility on campus and can’t wait to see more from them.”

Bria Walker, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and co-organizer of Black Lives in Focus, said “my heart and my spirit are really full right now” that the exhibition is open to the Pitt community. 

“For me, it’s very spiritual,” Walker said. “For me, it goes along with the tenets of why I do what I do. The fact that I actually have an opportunity and a space to support folks, I feel like I’m falling in line with what I’m meant to do.”

The art featured in the outdoor exhibition and the other initiatives that are part of Black Lives in Focus can be viewed online. It will be on view on the Cathedral lawn through Sept. 23 and a small selection of these works also will be on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibition will then travel to Pitt’s regional campuses during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


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  • People looking at art
    Chancellor Patrick Gallagher joins others in viewing the Black Lives in Focus exhibit on the Cathedral of Learning lawn on Sept. 9. (Photos by Tom Altany | University of Pittsburgh)
  • People looking at art
    The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 23 before traveling to Pitt's regional campuses.
  • Musicians in colorful shirts
    A reception on Thursday evening drew a crowd to see the exhibit and hear music.