Community Focus in Art Engagement

Omolade and fellow classmate, Erica Hughes, at local artist, Njaimeh Njie’s studio tour.


Community Focus in Art Engagement

Museum Studies Intern at the Office of Public Art – Fall 2019

I have always had an interest in how to connect people to art. After taking AP Art History in high school I wanted everyone to feel the things that art made me feel and I wondered how I could do that with different various barriers that make art inaccessible and daunting.

In my first meeting with the Office of Public Art my supervisor, Rachel Klipa, encouraged me to explore what I wanted from this internship and how the Office of Public Art could assist in this. From there I brainstormed with Rachel on how my interests and the mission of the office overlapped. One of the goals of the office is, “to serve as a change agent to increase visibility, relevance, and support for the arts.” I realized how important collaboration is to the office’s work and how partnership fosters a variety of opportunities in the expansion and growth of the art and culture sector. I was drawn to the accessibility aspect of their work. Rachel and I began to imagine what it would look like to get black students in Pittsburgh more involved with art. Each meeting new ideas formed and our notebooks filled with possible ideas and collaborations that catered specifically to young black adults. We decided that it would be useful to collect data and I designed an exit survey to compile data on the impact of black art on black students that I eventually sent through email to students that attended local black art events.

A student that attended a studio tour visit of local Pittsburgh artist, Njaimeh Njie, highlighted in her exit survey the impact black art has made not only in understanding black history and themes but also understanding and navigating her own personal identity and role as a black artist herself. The student reflected that Njie “spoke about wanting to talk to people living in the Hill district but making sure that process is filled with trust and a clarity of intentions. It sparked a question in my mind of what collaboration and solidarity looks like on a public art scale.”

Through this internship I learned how community engagement and collaboration have effect one another. I was able to get first-hand experience in engaging with a specific community and learned how centering what they want and need is the biggest and most important part of community engagement. I was able to be a part of multiple conversations that pushed my thinking in how art connects people and how it also aids in self-discovery at the same time and overall why it is worth the continued effort to connect people to art.

  • Academic Interns
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh